Official explains cause of delay at Ombudsman

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Saturday, January 25, 2014


WHAT causes the delay in the resolution of graft cases before the Office of the Ombudsman?

One of them is the delayed submission of documentary evidence by the ombudsman’s anti-corruption partners, said Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol.

“We cannot manufacture evidence or witnesses. The evidences are taken from witnesses, or custodian of the evidence,” he said.

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Apostol issued the statement to “avoid the impression that the Visayas Ombudsman is sitting on its cases.”

He outlined guidelines and procedures in the investigation and prosecution of cases.

When a complaint is filed, Apostol said, the charge undergoes evaluation by a designated evaluation officer, who may recommend the
referral of the case to other government agencies.

All about evidence

The complaint may also be recommended for mediation, request for assistance, fact-finding or case building, elevated for formal complaint or outright dismissal.

“If the accompanying supporting pieces of evidence are sufficient, the criminal and administrative aspects of the complaint are docketed for preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication, respectively,” he said.

The criminal case then undergoes quasi-judicial proceedings, which are similar to proceedings adopted by prosecutors in the Department of Justice.

Apostol also said the administrative case undergoes quasi-judicial proceedings, similar to proceedings adopted by the Civil Service Commission.

If the accompanying pieces of evidence of the complaint are insufficient, he said the complaint is referred to the field investigation unit for case building.

Also, if the complaint is anonymous, or there is no complainant, like newspaper reports, Apostol said the case is referred to the field investigation unit for the preparation of complaint, with the probe unit acting as the nominal complainant.

“If the complaint has no sufficient evidence, the same is also subjected to case building,” he said.

Once the case building and gathering of evidence are finished, the complaint is evaluated to determine whether there is sufficient basis to upgrade the complaint to formal investigation, or end the investigation for lack of basis.

Standard rules

Apostol said the ombudsman has standard rules set in determining sufficiency of evidence, pursuant to one of the Visayas Ombudsman’s policy thrusts for 2011 to 2018.

“The office should ensure that criminal cases filed in court would not be dismissed on the basis of insufficiency or evidence,” Apostol said.

The anti-graft office’s performance is not measured by the number of cases filed, he said, but by the number of convictions secured.

Apostol said the anti-graft office needs anti-corruption partners.

“The Office of the Ombudsman needs witnesses and documentary evidence in its successful investigation and prosecution of cases.

There could be no successful case building without the support of anti-graft corruption partners,” he said.

The Ombudsman’s Prosecution Bureau prosecuted about 1,144 criminal cases in Cebu last year.

Of the 28 criminal cases decided by the trial courts in 2013, 26 criminal cases secured convictions, or a 90-percent conviction rate. Only three cases, or 10 percent, were dismissed.

About 114 erring public officials in Visayas were dismissed from the service after they were found liable of various administrative infractions in the past three years, the Visayas Ombudsman reported.

The anti-graft office also suspended 248 erring government workers from 2011 to 2013 for various administrative violations.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 25, 2014.

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