13 vie for Ombudsman in Mindanao post

Lawyer Rodolfo Elman, director and officer-in-charge of the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao (OMB Min) said the Judiciary Bar Council will interview the candidates, including himself on July 27 and will pick three names for endorsement to President Arroyo, who should name the next Mindanao Ombudsman within three months.

Valenzuela, who retired on July 4, served as graft investigator and director before becoming deputy ombudsman for Mindanao.

Aside from Elman, the other applicants from Mindanao are lawyer Alberto Sipaco, regional director of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Southeastern Mindanao; OMB Min director Corazon Arangcon, former OMB Min lawyer Eusebio Avila, Digos City judge Marivic Daray, Davao City chief prosecutor Raul Bendigo and Paca-ambung Macabando, regional state prosecutor from Lanao del Sur.

The applicants from outside Mindanao were not named.

Elman said the deputy ombudsman in Mindanao will head 85 employees, including 25 lawyers in offices in Davao City and Cagayan de Oro, which they opened on June 21.

The deputy ombudsman decides on cases filed against officials in his jurisdiction — from barangay councilor to regional director.

Elman, however, noted that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has ordered that decisions on all cases before them be finalized by her. Elman said this could be temporary in that Gutierrez may just want to see the nature of cases filed against government officials in Mindanao.

As of June 30, the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao had a total of 617 pending cases, 349 of which are criminal and 268 are administrative, Elman said.

At least 70 percent of administrative cases filed before the Mindanao office, Elman said, have been dismissed and only around 30 percent resulted in punishment of the respondents. Around 22 percent of criminal cases filed with OMB Min are now in court, he said.

The Ombudsman, an independent body, is mandated to investigate anomalies and inefficiency in government service, not only to do preliminary investigation but also to conduct the fact-finding investigation to gather evidence.

It is also tasked to prosecute graft cases before the courts and holds disciplinary authority over all elective and appointive officials, except members of Congress, the Judiciary and impeachable officials.

The office of the Ombudsman has also been busy focusing on graft prevention (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)