Ombudsman investigations to proceed but deadlines suspended

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    THE threat of spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has slowed down the Office of the Ombudsman but investigations and acceptance of complaints against erring public officials will continue.

    Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Wednesday said the reglementary period for the filing of pleadings, motions, affidavits, and other documents pertaining to pending cases shall be deemed interrupted while the enhanced community quarantine is in effect over the whole island of Luzon.

    This means that the original deadlines set will be relaxed and the count will start anew only on April 14, the date that Malacañang has designated for the end of the Luzon-wide work and travel restrictions.

    Martires reiterated that the Ombudsman’s Central Office in Quezon City will remain closed during the same period as well as its offices in the cities of Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Tacloban, and Cagayan de Oro.

    Corollary to this, the period for the rendition of decisions, resolutions, and/or other orders shall also be deemed interrupted for the same period, and shall begin to run again on 14 April 2020,” the Ombudsman added.

    However, the anti-corruption agency continues to accept complaints against abuse by government officials online through its official website www.ombudsman.gov.ph.

    Applications for Ombudsman clearance by those who are seeking employment in government, retiring from the service, or moving up in position are likewise accepted through the same online process.

    As of Dec. 31, 2019, the Ombudsman reported a pending workload of 5,348 cases for fact-finding, 1,543 cases completed investigations, and 761 cases already filed in court.

    It also resolved 2,414 administrative cases against the pending total of 3,922 cases.

    Meanwhile, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines has asked President Duterte to suspend hearings and all processes in the quasi-judicial and administrative bodies nationwide while the enhanced community quarantine is in effect.

    “In view of the current public health emergency and in support of the efforts to contain COVID-19, the IBP respectfully recommends the temporary suspension of hearings and processes in all quasi-judicial and all administrative tribunals all over the Philippines, except for the extremely urgent and critically important cases and matters,” the IBP said in a letter to Duterte dated March 16.

    The group also asked Duterte to extend the deadline for the submission of pleadings and other case requirements.

    It added that it may help if the tribunals remain functional with minimal staff on a rotation or on-call basis, and work-at-home arrangements.

    “A weekly assessment and adjustment of the suspension and other precautionary measures may be judicious,” the IBP said. — With Ashzel Hachero

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