Martires' priority: Probe 'parking fee' for Ombudsman cases

MANILA, Philippines – Incoming Ombudsman Samuel Martires said on Monday, July 30, that he would prioritize the investigation into the alleged "parking fee" scheme that delay cases in the Office of the Ombudsman.

A parking fee is allegedly paid to investigators to hold off resolving a case. The delay would then cause the anti-graft court to dismiss the case, on the grounds of upholding the constitutional right of an accused to a speedy resolution of cases.

Inordinate delay has resulted in the dismissal of close to 100 Ombudsman cases, including the fertilizer fund scam cases. 

“Yes, that is one of my priorities, and when I assume office I would make the necessary announcement on what has to be done. I cannot say now because it would be unfair to the officers and employees of the OMB if through the media they just learned na ito ang aking gusto (that this is what I want),” Martires told reporters at the Supreme Court Monday morning for his last flag ceremonies there.

Martires said he would tell Ombudsman employees of his plans on Wednesday.

Edna Batacan

Martires said he would also "demand" defense attorney Edna Batacan to identify Ombudsman investigators who had supposedly extorted for parking fees.

Batacan, who applied for Ombudsman, told the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) that she had been a victim of parking fee scheme. She didn’t explicitly say she had paid a parking fee, although she admitted being involved in a P50,000 payoff to get the status of one of the cases she handled.

When asked whether he was thinking of filing a case against Batacan for involvement in extortion and bribery, Martires said the lawyer’s cooperation in their internal investigation was all he’s thinking about for now.

“I just want her to cooperate with us. I told [Special Prosecutor Edilberto] Sandoval about this and Overall Deputy Ombudsman [Arthur] Carandang, we should ask or demand Attorney Batacan to identify the officers or employee who received money from her,” Martires said.

Sandoval had also wanted an investigation into the so-called parking fee scheme. He earlier said the parking fee is paid to investigators, meaning it involves units like the Field Investigation Office (FIO) and the Preliminary Investigation and Administrative Adjudication Bureau (PIAAB) or their equivalents. 

Retired ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said they were investigating all wrongdoings of officials, including the parking fees, just that no one had ever come up with a concrete evidence during her term.

Inordinate delay

Martires said he would be coming up with his “own system” to address the delays, whether it’s a result of corruption or systemic inefficiencies.

In his JBC interview, Martires said he would create a special team of lawyers and Information Technology (IT) experts to digitize the process, and make prosecutors submit electronic monthly reports of their cases.

This way, monitoring would be more stringent. “You have to give these investigators a timeframe, let’s say 90 days, within which to dispose a case undergoing fact finding,” Martires said last June.

With these impending changes within the Office of the Ombudsman, Martires asked employees and officials to keep an open line with him.

“If you have to criticize me, you tell me where I made the mistake. Even as friends you tell me, 'Justice, mukhang mali 'yung ginawa ninyo (You might have made a mistake).' Then I will apologize, not so hard for me to apologize,” said Martires. – 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.

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