Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Philippine Ombudsman unveils integrity center

Market Files
Lito U Gagni
Business Mirror

Appearing at the Tuesday Club at Edsa Shangri-La Hotel yesterday, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was greeted by former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad: “How is the pressure cooker?” Indeed, the Ombudsman, who was a legal researcher at Malacañang during the time of President Marcos, is now in the maelstrom of several controversies revolving on corruption cases involving government men.

The Ombudsman, we understand, has been moving toward resolving the corruption cases, but with a view to seeing to it that the pieces of evidence are painstakingly presented to secure conviction.

Right now, though, the Ombudsman (one of two Swedish words in the English language, the other being smorgasbord) is putting up an Asian Integrity Center that would pave the way for a clear appreciation of the anticorruption mandate of the agency. Ms. Gutierrez said the agency is teaming up with four other institutions for a training protocol to address corruption cases in government agencies. The training is significant since government men would go through accountability and ethics issues relative to their line of work, as well as integrity issues.

The four other institutions aside from the Office of the Ombudsman are Griffith University of Australia, an affiliated United Nations University in Australia; Institute of Ethics, Law and Governance in Australia; the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance; and the Development Academy of the Philippines. These five institutions would train public officials for them to know and apply the rules on the conduct of business. With the training protocol conceived for the public officials, Ms. Gutierrez believes there would be less incidence of corruption in government agencies. She said a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is now handling training on governance for government executives.

One other thrust of the Ombudsman now is the setting up of a research database on corruption cases. So far, there is no database regarding corruption cases, as well as the profiling of issues on accountability, ethics and integrity. Ms. Gutierrez said there are no statistics available on corruption cases. By having this database, the Office of the Ombudsman can work on preventing the occurrence of corruption. Having a profile of the integrity issues would serve as an alert mechanism for the Ombudsman.

The profiling of cases, like those filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) under its first chairman, former senator Jovito Salonga, is an interesting study that the Ombudsman is looking into. According to Ms. Gutierrez, the PCGG lost more than 95 percent of the cases it filed because of the lack of the crucial evidence to support them. To this, Senator Tatad quipped that the PCGG cases that were filed then seemed meant as part of a government propaganda campaign.

We understand that the Sandiganbayan had no recourse but to dismiss much of the PCGG cases that were filed because more than 90 percent of the evidence submitted were merely certified true copies of xerox copies of the originals.

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