Office of the Ombusman: Understanding what speed is in the issue of justice

September 18, 2010 § 1 Comment

One of the numerous complaints that Filipinos have about the judicial system is its perceived “slowness”. Some cases, especially those filed at the Supreme Court, take years to resolve. I asked one of my lawyer friends and there are certain instances where a case takes decades to resolve. What is the reason for such slow response to the issue of justice?

First, I think that it is unfair for Filipinos to judge the judicial system as such. For one, the judicial system right now is under tight watch by majority of Filipinos simply because the primordial concern of most everyone is the speedy dispensation of justice. This is a right enshrined in the Constitution and government is expected to protect it.

If this right is clearly not being respected by the State and judicial bodies fail in their duties to dispense justice at the quickest allowable time, then people often perceive the entire system as dysfunctional, or worst, simply unimportant.

What people don’t know right now is there are certain agencies of government that tries very hard to resolve cases filed before them.

I am talking about the Office of the Ombusman.

Yes, there are perceptions that the Office of the Ombusman is one agency of government that behaves like the others. That cases filed before the sala of the OMbusman takes years to resolve. Yet, based on my research, it is very clear that the Office of the Ombusman is actually faster than others.

Examples are charges filed against people responsible for the noodle scam, the ZTE-NBN deal, the swine scam at the Quedancor, the Euro Generals and many others.

Unknown to many, the Office of the Ombusman has taken the cudgels as swift dispensers of justice by investigating thoroughly the roles and participation of certain government officials in these scandals.

Fact is, the Office of the Ombusman took a pro-active role in many of these issues. Sadly though, and this is being talked about in legal circles, the media failed to appreciate the work of the OMB.

And the reason for the misappreciation of the Ombusman’s work is the lack of understanding about the legal processes involved in resolving cases.

A friend of mine explained that the Office of the Ombusman starts by investigating the case. After investigation, it then allows parties involved to file answers or counters. Afterwards, it then submits its findings to the Office of the Ombusman where the case is thoroughly looked at, assessed as to its legality or constitutionality and thereafter, recommends either the dismissal or filing of appropriate criminal or administrative charges to the Sandiganbayan. The entire process, from determination of a case, to preliminary investigation to a recommedation for filing of charges takes time.

When the resolution of a particular case has taken the long, yet legal route,people complain and often think that the Office of the Ombusman has neglected its mandate. Like any other agency of government, the OMB is mandated to follow the rules so to speak, otherwise, it will negate its very nature as a judicial body.

The Ombusman can only be accused of a crime or impropriety if it purposely neglects its duty as investigator of graft cases. Or, if it decides contrary to law. Yet, I am in the opinion, and this is based again on my research, the Ombusman has not been remissed of its primary duties. Fact is, according to a 2009 report, it even surpassed its mandate.

And this is largely due to the efforts of the Ombusman Merceditas Gutierrez and most of the Ombusman’s men, including Deputy Ombusman for Luzon Mark Jalandoni. Like his boss, Merceditas Gutierrez, Jalandoni, according to some insiders, is one of the most hard-working members of the Ombusman. When he headed the Field Investigation Unit of the OMB, Jalandoni distinguished himself for being the one who discovered the swine scam at the Quedancor.

Jalandoni, insiders say, is deeply committed to the mandate of his office. He serves with utmost dedication. He is one prime example of an honest government servant. MOst of his colleagues respected him, for his dedication, his honesty and integrity.

Anyway, I really think that it is high time for people to give more of their trust to agencies of government like the Ombusman. The people behind this agency works extremely hard. it is rather unfair that we lump them together with other judicial or quasi-judicial bodies which often fail in  their mandates.

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