Santiago, one of ombud’s tireless officials, retires-A A +A
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
LAWYER Virginia Palanca-Santiago yesterday bade farewell to fellow workers in government and expressed the hope that people will continue to trust the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Even if I’m out of the office, the ombudsman will continue to exist. No one is indispensable in an office,” Santiago, the outgoing assistant ombudsman for the Visayas, told reporters.
Santiago served the anti-graft office for 16 years.
The lawyer, who hails from Hinunangan town in Southern Leyte, turned 65 yesterday, the mandatory age for retirement.
A mass was held at the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas, followed by a birthday and farewell party. Santiago, along with other ombudsman employees, wore a red dress.
She urged colleagues in government to continue serving the public. “Money is not everything. But money is not the root of all evil; it’s the love and greed for money,” she pointed out.
Santiago clarified she was not upset that she was never appointed as deputy ombudsman for the Visayas.
“I’m happy because at least I finished my term. I can still move around,” she said.
Also yesterday, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama opposed the plan to abolish the position of assistant ombudsman.
“If the ombudsman is away, falls ill, or goes on leave, who would take over if the position is abolished? Wala (No one). So that proposal should be studied thoroughly,” he said.
“The (ombudsman) should be mindful that there is a reason why there is such a position (as assistant ombudsman),” said Rama.
The mayor was reacting to the statement of Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol that he would prefer to abolish the position, with the retirement of Assistant Ombudsman Palanca-Santiago.
Apostol earlier said he is not keen on appointing someone as Santiago’s replacement, and that the assistant ombudsman would only cause confusion in some office communications.
Apostol did not attend Santiago’s farewell and birthday party.
Santiago said the assistant ombudsman’s post may or may not be filled.
“It isn’t important, but it can be of help,” she said.
Now that she’s retired, Santiago plans to visit her son and some relatives in the United States.
“After which, I will leave it all to God what I will do next. But I think I’ll try to help people in our hometown,” she said.
Before joining the ombudsman’s office, she worked as a legal officer in the Department of Agrarian Reform from 1972 to 1983 and was appointed as a prosecutor in Cebu City from 1983 to 1996.
When she was named best prosecutor in the Philippines, former deputy ombudsman for the Visayas Arturo Mojica asked Santiago to join the anti-graft office.
Santiago said she it took her several months to decide whether she would join the ombudsman’s office, since she had planned to retire as a prosecutor.
“I really loved that kind of job,” Santiago said.
Being an assistant ombudsman was not an easy job. At one point, she asked a superior to let her retire early, but she was told, “Stay put.”
Among the graft cases she handled were the alleged overpricing of lampposts installed during the 2007 Asean Summit and the Provincial Government’s Balili land deal.
Santiago hopes the public will continue trusting the ombudsman’s office.
“They will continue to help the people. They will continue to decide the cases,” Santiago said.
She also thanked the media for helping her give vital information to the public about how the ombudsman’s office works.
“I don’t begrudge,” she said. “I will leave this office peacefully.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 17, 2012.