By Jose Oscar Magpusao
Screenshot from ANC 24/7
Atty. Dino de Leon explored options to impeach Ombudsman Samuel Martirez after recent controversies surrounding his refusal to allow the procurement of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) during an interview with ANC on Thursday.
Atty. De Leon previously attempted to retrieve the President’s SALN from the Office of the President back in 2020 and was referred to the Office of the Ombudsman as he was informed those were the proper channels. His request was subsequently denied by the Ombudsman and referred him to Memorandum Circular No.1, Series of 2020, which stated that he needed Duterte’s notarized SALN letter of authorization.
He explicitly criticized Ombudsman Martirez's constant attempts to block the public from accessing the SALN of government officials, preventing them from being held accountable should there be any discrepancies.
This comes after Ombudsman Martirez’s statements on Thursday, where he relayed plans to propose amendments to RA 6713 and effectively penalizing anyone who comments on the SALN of government officials as he alleged being a victim of reports from the media when his SALN came into question.
“One of the contentious provisions actually is on the SALN. I want to reconcile (R.A.) 6713 with 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) on the SALN to provide safety nets so that a SALN can be published but no person should be allowed to comment on the SALN of a particular government official or employee,” Martires said on Thursday.
“So what I am proposing is to make stringent penalties that anyone who makes a comment on this SALN of a particular government official and employee must likewise be liable for at least an imprisonment of not less than five years,” he added.
In response to the idea of SALN being weaponized, De Leon stated that it “is indeed a weapon against corrupt public officials. If there is justification to use it against public officials then by all means it should be done. The public can use this as a weapon.”
“The Constitution and the laws cannot be trumped by a mere guideline issued by the Ombudsman. It is quite perplexing that the first action of the Ombudsman, who’s supposed to be the Tanod-Bayan of the people against corruption, is to actually prevent the people from accessing this crucial information as guaranteed by no less than the Constitution and our laws,” Atty. De Leon said.
De Leon stated that the SALN of the President, as well as any public official, should “be disclosed, as provided by law” and released to the public, referring to Article 11, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution; Book 1, Chapter 9, Section 34 of the Administrative Code of 1987 the President’s SALN; and Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
“We have to ask ourselves: What is the Ombudsman doing? Is he still fulfilling his mandate? Is he still competent? The Ombudsman is presumably intelligent since he used to be a Supreme Court Justice, so I think he is deliberately doing this and it is quite questionable that this is his first action,” De Leon said.
He remarked that the next administration’s first course of action should be to impeach the Ombudsman. He remained hopeful for future attempts to impeach Martirez, noting that his controversies and questionable performance of duty has been well recorded.
“The people should scrutinize the Ombudsman. He will not be the Ombudsman forever. We are aware that he is an impeachable official and he is growing old already. Justice will be served one way or another, but we’re prepared to hold him into account in due courses as well,” De Leon said.