Our latest report looks at a fundamental duty that the Office of the Ombudsman must perform with excellent results: compliance with the law on the filing and disclosure of their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth or SALN.
Indeed, the men and women of the Ombudsman should be the exemplars when it comes to observance of this law. After all, the Constitution has vastly empowered the Ombudsman to serve as the premier integrity and anti-graft agency of the land.
But only token compliance to absolute indifference to the law seems to be the attitude and conduct common to Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez and her 11 deputy and assistant Ombudsmen.
Multiple requests filed by the PCIJ for copies of their SALNs with three government offices that are supposed to be repositories of these documents yielded a paltry, if pathetic, harvest.
Copies of the SALNs of Gutierrez and three senior officials of the Ombudsman are simply nowhere to be found in the state agencies that are supposed to receive these documents.
Three deputy Ombudsmen filed just once in 2006, while five other officials, three to four years in a row.
Half of the eight officials with SALNs enrolled insufficient and vague data on the sources of their wealth other than their lawful incomes, thus offering few clues to explain their net worth.
Not a single SALN that Gutierrez might have filed since she became Ombudsman in 2005 could be produced or provided by the Office of the President, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and even the Office of the Ombudsman itself.
This story comes with a Sidebar on an unhappy development: the Office of the President seems to be putting up more barriers to accessing public documents like SALNs. This is even as President Benigno Simeon Aquino III had precisely ran, won, and sealed a “Social Contract with the Filipino People” that promises “transparent, participatory and accountable government.”