Morales: Congress, not Martires, should reassess Solid Waste Act

MANILA, Philippines – Did Ombudsman Samuel Martires have legal basis to recall a previously ordered suspension of local executives who were found administratively guilty of violating the Solid Waste Act?

His predecessor, retired Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, doesn't think so. She said the issue should have been addressed by Congress.

“If that is his thinking, then the wisdom of the decision should have been addressed to the members of Congress because they were the ones who passed the law,” said Morales, who is also a former Supreme Court justice.

Martires earlier told reporters that for him, the Solid Waste Act is not “ecomonically viable” because shutting down dumpsites costs money that poor municipalities do not have. On this basis, Martires recalled the suspension orders issued by Morales.

“If this happens, baka wala na matirang mayor o vice mayor sa mga 5th class and 6th class municipalities dahil sa kawalan ng pera to close an open dumpsite (there will be no more mayor or vice mayor left from 5th or 6th class municipalities because of the lack of funds to close an open dumpsite),” said Martires.

Critics have commented that the action of the new Ombudsman amounted to a refusal to implement the law. Martires’ recall orders did not contain legal justifications.

Sayang naman (it's such a waste) in the sense na (that) the Environmental Ombudsman team takes pains to study the matter...only to be, well, only, for the penalty upon the malefactors or those who violated the law was withdrawn by the Ombudsman,” said Morales.

The Environmental Ombudsman was Morales’ brainchild – a team dedicated to probing the compliance of local officials with environmental laws, including the Solid Waste Act. The 2013 initiative was envisioned to “protect the environment and the populace from the negative impacts of waste.”

Just recently, the government sought to charge local officials in Aklan for environmental neglect in Boracay. The complaint is pending before the Ombudsman.

The suspension recalls are one of Martires’ new policies as Ombudsman, which include his office:

Asked to comment on Martires’ other policies, Morales said: “It’s not my business because he’s the Ombudsman, he has his own policies just like I had my own policies.” –

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 or tweet @lianbuan.