By Camille A. Aguinaldo
THE Constitutional Commission (ConCom) tasked to review the 1987 Constitution wants the Office of the Ombudsman to be given “more teeth” in fighting graft and corruption under the proposed federal Charter.
At a press briefing on Thursday, ConCom spokesperson Conrado I. Generoso said the Office of the Ombudsman would be renamed the “Federal Ombudsman Commission.” The agency would also be elevated as among the Constitutional Commissions in the new Constitution.
Under the proposal, the Federal Ombudsman Commission is composed of the chief ombudsman, four associates for Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and Metro Manila, an overall deputy ombudsman for administration, a deputy ombudsman for the military and law enforcement, and a deputy ombudsman for every federated region.
Mr. Generoso said the new structure is intended to speed up the investigation, prosecution, and resolution of cases. It would also address the inordinate delay in cases which have caused their dismissal.
“By having a commission, you can have more commissioners looking at different cases. Instead of just one Ombudsman, looking at all the numerous cases, you can now divide the number of cases to the different commissioners. It will now be a collegial body,” he said.
Additional powers were also given to the new ombudsman office, such as giving the proposed commission the authority to preventively suspend any officer or employee under his authority pending an investigation.
No writ of injunction would also be issued by any court to delay an investigation being conducted by the Ombudsman, Mr. Generoso added.
Under the present 1987 Constitution, provisions on the Office of the Ombudsman are mentioned under Article 11 on Accountability of Public Officers. The office has the power to investigate erring public officials and recommend his or her removal, suspension or demotion, among others. Republic Act No. 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989 further provides the functions and structure of the Office of the Ombudsman.