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Opinion

Preacher or graft-buster?

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Samuel R. Martires is probably the most incompetent and do-nothing tribune of the people since the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) was created in 1988.

The predecessor of the OMB was the Tanodbayan (watchdog), formed in 1973.

The following preceded Martires in the Office of the Ombudsman: Conrado Vasquez, 1988-1995; Aniano Desierto, 1995-2002; Simeon Marcelo, 2002-2005; Merceditas Gutierrez, 2005-2011; Orlando Casimiro, 2011 and Conchita Carpio-Morales, 2011-2018.

I don’t have the names of those who served as Tanodbayan officials, but the most famous of them was Raul Gonzalez, who later became secretary of justice during the administration of president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

All the above-named ombudsmen – from the Swedish term for representative of the people – gave justice to the office. They were either respected or feared by corrupt government officials and employees.

It’s not the same with Martires, who seems to enjoy all the perks of the job, without fulfilling his responsibilities or giving justice to his office.

One of several bloopers committed by Ombudsman Martires is his pronouncement that citizens who seek to know the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of a government official should be clapped in jail.

Duh! What’s the use of the SALN if it can’t be scrutinized by the citizenry?

Isn’t the SALN open to the public since it’s generally considered a public document?

What happens to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in our Constitution, if Martires wants to criminalize criticisms of public officials who have amassed fortunes while in office?

On corruption, which the ombudsman prevents or punishes, Martires had this to say: “On the aspect of combating corruption in the country, I think it will take us a lifetime to fight corruption unless and until we change our values. Until and unless we disregard the sources of corruption, which is greed, envy, lust, avarice, these are all the seven cardinal sins.”

Martires sounds more like a preacher than a graft-buster.

One wonders how Martires, a retired Supreme Court justice, decided cases in the high tribunal given his skewed logic.

Let’s now look at Martires’ background.

When he was in high school, he wanted to become a priest, but his mother forbade him from entering the seminary. It’s no wonder that he sounds like a preacher. If priesthood were his calling, no person in the world – even his mother – could have prevented him from answering God’s call.

Finishing Bachelor of Arts at the Manuel L. Quezon University, Martires earned his Bachelor of Laws from San Beda College in 1975 and passed the Bar exam the same year.

His first job was as legal officer of the Department of Public Works, Transportation and Communications (DPWH), one of the most corrupt agencies of government.

In 1986 when President Corazon C. Aquino took over, Martires declined an offer to become a judge, citing the low salary and bad reputation of people in the judiciary. However, his mother prevailed upon him to join the judiciary.

In June 1998, a month after his mother died, he submitted his application to become a trial court judge. In July 2000, Martires became the presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court in Agoo, La Union.

In 2002, Judge Caroline Pangan of the Rosario, La Union Municipal Court filed an administrative complaint against Martires and another judge for “gross ignorance of the law, incompetence, abuse of authority and dereliction of duty.”

What prompted a municipal court judge, a subordinate of Martires in the judicial hierarchy, to file an administrative complaint?

Martires allegedly refused to issue a warrant of arrest for a murder suspect despite the presence of evidence and the urgings of the prosecution (italics mine – RTT).

As a result, the murder complaint was dismissed.

His past in La Union didn’t haunt him when he was appointed associate justice of the Sandiganbayan, and eventually Supreme Court justice.

As ombudsman, Martires said his office would stop conducting lifestyle checks on public officials, saying that having a luxurious lifestyle does not prove that an official is corrupt.

He described lifestyle checks as “illogical” and “purely” based on estimates. He also claimed that the SALNs and lifestyle checks are used by the media and political rivals to “extort” government officials.

Does it take one to know one?

*      *      *

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee unmasked Michael Yang, a close friend of President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, as a liar and influence peddler in Friday’s hearing.

Yang was found to have loaned a humongous amount of money to Pharmally Pharmaceuticals, a company that has an initial capital of P625,000, to supply the government with face masks and face shields at astronomical prices.

He had consistently denied he had something to do with Pharmally but was caught lying through his teeth under grilling from Senators Dick Gordon, Frank Drilon, Kiko Pangilinan, Ping Lacson and Risa Hontiveros.

Expect more things to be unraveled about Yang’s involvement as the Senate probe continues.

*      *      *

Why did the President have to apologize to China for the death of four Chinese nationals who were caught in a P3.4-billion drug bust in Zambales?

Did China apologize for executing three Filipino drug mules in 2011? No, because their laws call for the supreme penalty for drug traffickers!

My contact in Shanghai said that China was supportive of the Philippine police stand against illegal drug activities.

One question that lingers: Why were the Chinese drug smugglers shot dead by their Filipino police captors when they could have pointed to their accomplices?

Is it because dead men tell no tales?

*      *      *

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque snarled at doctors who proposed an extension of the hard lockdown, because hospitals can no longer accept COVID-19 patients due to being full.

Roque should kiss goodbye his plan to run for the Senate. His outburst was politically fatal.

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