To mark the successful conclusion of a project aimed at enhancing the capacity of prosecutors in the Philippines, 113 lawyers of the Office of the Ombudsman came together with members of the international community for a symposium in Manila on integrity and anti-corruption initiatives.
Organized by IDLO in partnership with the Ombudsman’s Office and with support from the United States Department of State, the symposium covered topics such as best practices in investigation and prosecution of anti-corruption cases, the disproportionate negative effect of corruption on women, and the role of the media in anti-corruption efforts.
Good governance is critical to attaining economic growth and sustainable development in the Philippines. Since public accountability and integrity were made a national priority in 2011, the country has made significant strides in improving its business climate – reflected in international rankings such as the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. However, effective prosecution of criminal cases continues to be hampered by poor coordination and a lack of necessary skills.
IDLO’s representative Ted Hill compared the classic model of a “watchdog” ombudsman that provides only recommendations, to the Philippines model where the mandate of the Ombudsman also includes the investigation and prosecution of public sector corruption.
“The Philippine Ombudsman has perhaps the most complex mandate of any ombudsman in the world,” Mr. Hill noted. “For an Ombudsman to operate effectively, a number of elements are required including resources, competent staff, political will and independence. But these elements are insufficient unless the Ombudsman’s Office has a high degree of integrity.”
The discussions featured the high-level perspectives of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and Senior Associate Justice Efren de La Cruz from the Sandiganbayan court, which is dedicated to cases involving graft and corruption committed by public officers.
Ombudsman Carpio Morales reinforced the importance of the rule of law for the mandate and activities of her Office. “As an independent constitutional office tasked to uphold and promote integrity, transparency and accountability in public service, the Office [of the Ombudsman] has been accorded constitutional guarantees that insulate it from political influence and interference,” Ms. Carpio Morales stated.
“But more than these guarantees, the sturdier shield of the Office against external influences is the premium it puts on the rule of law. The rule of law is what keeps it firm in reinforcing a government of laws and never of men,” she continued.
IDLO’s project in the Philippines was launched in late 2016 and focused on enhancing the capacity of the Department of Justice to conduct improved criminal prosecutions, as well as strengthen capacity of the Office of the Ombudsman to better resolve complaints of corruption against public officials.
Image: Conchita Carpio Morales, Ombudsman of the Philippines, speaking at IDLO’s anti-corruption symposium