The Philippines’ Office of the Ombudsman commemorated its 30 years of existence during a Joint Forum with IDLO in Manila on May 8, 2018. The Forum occurred as IDLO celebrates its 30th anniversary as an intergovernmental organization this year, marking a mutually significant occasion for both institutions.
Over 200 government officials, members of the international community and other stakeholders were in attendance, including high-level representatives from all three branches of government.
The Office of the Ombudsman in the Philippines plays a unique role as a body that not only receives complaints, but also investigates and prosecutes charges of graft and corruption among government officials. IDLO has worked to improve the capacity of prosecutors within the Office of the Ombudsman to better handle these cases.
Most recently, with support from the United States Department of State, IDLO launched a project in 2016, to enhance the capacity of prosecutors within both the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman through comprehensive training.
“Corruption is the biggest obstacle to development,” commented Hon. Johnny Pimentel, a member of the House of Representatives, in his remarks at the Forum.
“We cannot leave corruption unattended.”
The event also served to observe the long arc of collaboration and partnership between IDLO and the Philippines.
The Philippines facilitated IDLO’s – then known as the International Development Law Institute (IDLI) – introduction to the Asia-Pacific region, both as a founding Member Party, joining in 1989, and as the host of IDLO’s first regional training office in Manila in 1997. IDLO, then IDLI, conducted training in the country between 1996 and 2001.
Since then, IDLO has benefitted from the support of Professor Alfredo Flores Tadiar and former Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on its Board of Advisers.
“What is interesting to note is that, at the time of the UN Convention against Corruption, the Constitutionally-enshrined Ombudsman of the Philippines had already been in existence for approximately 15 years. [I]n many ways, the Philippines has been an international leader in the battle against corruption,” said Mr. Ted Hill, IDLO’s Senior Program Development Specialist, at the Forum.
The Joint Forum reflected on the Office’s legacy, progress and recent accomplishments. When Ombudsman Ms. Conchita Carpio Morales took up her position in 2011, the Office of the Ombudsman had approximately 19,000 cases on board. The caseload now has been reduced to a manageable level with the aim of zero backlog by 2019. Conviction rates of public officials between 2015 and 2017 ranged from 68 and 77 per cent. These accomplishments serve to increase public trust.
“Our constitutional duty is to be accountable to people at all levels,” remarked Hon. Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, Presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan, a special appellate collegial court.
“Citizens have become more vigilant, more outspoken and more empowered.”
Discussions at the Forum urged the involvement of all stakeholders to uphold plans to reform justice institutions, and to continue to promote integrity and fight against corruption.