Groups seek transparency, documents from Ombuds

() - July 5, 2008 - 12:00am

Various cause-oriented groups and people’s organizations in Cebu are demanding transparency and accountability from the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas.

This came following reports that the anti-graft office denied the media access to financial statements of the public officials despite the earlier commitment it made before the Cebu Citizen’s Press Council.

Gloria Ramos of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter said they will launch a signature campaign, especially in campuses, next week.  The result of the campaign will be submitted to the Ombudsman central office in Manila.

Ramos, together with the officials of progressive groups like Fishermen’s Development Center, Farmer’s Development Center, Panaghugpong sa Gagmay’ng Mananagat sa Sugbu yesterday started the campaign by signing the manifesto that would be sent to Ombudsman director Merceditas Gutierrez.

They decided to come out with the manifesto following reports that the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas is hesitant to give media the access to the Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Net of public officials.

Citing the provisions of the Philippine Constitution, they explained that public officers and employees must be accountable to the people, and should serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency.

Specifically, they said that the Constitution said that the “Ombudsman and his deputies, as protectors of the people, shall act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees… and notify the complainants of the action taken and the result thereof.”

“As public official, the Ombudsman should practice transparency because it has committed to give media access to public documents,” Ramos said.

The groups said that the Office of the Ombudsman cannot exercise legal and moral authority over public officials when it is hounded by issues on inefficiency and transparency.

“We are invoking our rights as citizens to have access to information of public concern, and the state policy of full disclosure as guaranteed by the Constitution, we are requesting your office to immediately allow the people to have access to Statements of Assets and Liabilities of public officials in various government agencies in Cebu. Your failure to do so will constrain us to seek judicial intervention to protect our rights and those of the people,” they said in their letter to Ombudsman Gutierrez. 

In another manifesto, they also want the Congress to release the official list of legislators who went with President Gloria Arroyo to the United States at the height of typhoon Frank which ravaged the country.

They said they want to know why the members of Congress went to the US “in the midst of resource scarcity among our people and why they persisted with their visit to the US despite the announcement of typhoon Frank hitting the country”.

“These congressional junkets have no place in a nation mired in food and fuel crises and the natural and man-made calamities.  They are thoughtless extravagance in the expense for pleasure… during a period of acute public want or emergency,” the manifesto read.  — Wenna A. Berondo/MEEV


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