Office of the Ombudsman

Duterte set to pack Ombudsman leadership with his appointees

Lian Buan
JBC opens 2 of the 3 posts – deputy ombudsman for Mindanao, and the crucial deputy ombudsman for MOLEO which handles cases against soldiers and cops

President Rodrigo Duterte is on his way to packing the leadership of the Office of the Ombudsman entirely with his appointees, with the 3 remaining Aquino appointees set to retire this year.

The positions of deputy ombudsmen for Visayas, Mindanao, and Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) will all become vacant this year, and will be for Duterte to fill up. The remaining top posts have been filled with his earlier picks.

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has opened the applications for deputy ombudsmen for Mindanao and MOLEO. The Ombudsman and his deputies have a non-renewable term of 7 years.

Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao Rodolfo Elman, who was appointed by former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, retired last March 13. The JBC accepted applications for his replacement until March 30.

Deputy Ombudsman for MOLEO Cyril Ramos, also an Aquino appointee, will retire on May 6. The JBC has started accepting applications for the post.

Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente is the last Aquino appointee to go. He will retire on October 28.

The deputy ombudsmen are crucial posts because in some cases, they are the final approval of resolutions – whether to charge or clear a public official.

Some cases go to the Overall Deputy Ombudsman (ODO) for approval, while some go up all the way to Ombudsman Samuel Martires. In all instances, the recommendation of the deputy carries a lot of weight. (READ: Pandemic limits Philippines’ anti-corruption work)

The MOLEO post is even more crucial in the context of Duterte because it handles cases of alleged ‘nanlaban‘ victims in the government’s war on drugs, and the red-tagging cases against military members.

Ramos handled and terminated the investigation into the wealth of the Dutertes. Former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in 2018 that it was Ramos who was handling the criminal probe over  Davao City 1st district Representative Paolo Duterte in a case related to the latter’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN.) It’s not clear what happened to that probe.

Earlier appointees

The ODO post was filled last November with Duterte’s former legal consultant Warren Liong. Liong was a director at the Department of Budget and Management Procurement Services (DBM-PS) before he got the plum post.

Liong replaced Melchor Arthur Carandang as ODO, who was fired by Malacañang for alleged confidentiality breaches when the latter was investigating the wealth of the Duterte family.

The Duterte wealth probe was terminated because, according to former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) did not cooperate. It was halted without prejudice to reopening.

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Duterte appointed Martires in 2018. Under Martires, lifestyle checks have been stopped and a policy has been pushed to have a less criminal treatment of corruption cases.

Duterte appointed retired Sandiganbayan justice Edilberto Sandoval as Special Prosecutor in 2017.

Sandoval heads the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), the prosecutorial arm of the office. Whatever the Office of the Ombudsman approves for charges, the OSP handles in trial.

As Special Prosecutor, Sandoval can recommend who gets to be state witness.

Duterte appointed veteran Ombudsman prosecutor Cornelio Somido as Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon in 2019. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.