Guevarra: Lifestyle checks not enough to conclude exec is corrupt
This undated photo shows Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra at a Senate committee hearing.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo
Guevarra: Lifestyle checks not enough to conclude exec is corrupt
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 23, 2020 - 4:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that lifestyle checks on government officials are not enough to conclude that someone is corrupt or not.

This was in reaction to Ombudsman Samuel Martires’ remarks on Tuesday that their office has stopped conducting lifestyle checks as the chief graft buster said he has questions on the "logic" of the law in looking at whether someone is living beyond their means as a possible sign of corruption.

Guevarra, in a message to reporters, said that he “understands” where Martires is coming from.

“Indeed, a lifestyle check as a stand-alone measure will not conclusively indicate whether a person is engaged in some wrongdoing to enrich himself,” he added.

According to the Ombudsman's own official website, a lifestyle check "is an investigation strategy developed by anti-corruption agencies in the Philippines to determine the existence of ill-gotten and unexplained wealth of officials and employees of the government."

Martires, during the House’s budget deliberations for the Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday, said he has questions on the provision of Republic 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees on lifestyle check. He added that there is a need to define what is living beyond means and simple living.

Section 4(h) of RA 6713 holds that public officials and employees and their families “shall lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income. They shall not indulge in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth in any form.”

Other processes needed to find possible corruption

Guevarra said that lifestyle checks should be conducted with other processes when investigating public officers.

"A lifestyle check has to be intertwined with a much deeper process of investigating specific acts of corruption or other crimes. It is meant to strengthen a finding of a wrongdoing, as manifested in the lifestyle of the person concerned," he added.

In the probe conducted by the Task Force PhilHealth, investigators "commenced lifestyle checks as an adjunct of the fraud and corruption investigations," he said.

Guevarra however stressed that government officials and employees must lead modest lives while serving the public.

“[I]n any event, government officials and employees, no matter how well-to-do or wealthy they are, are encouraged to live and project a modest life as public servants,” he added.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MENARDO GUEVARRA OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN SAMUEL MARTIRES
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