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Office of the Ombudsman

Information and articles about the Office of the Ombudsman and its activities as principal anti-corruption agency of the government.

Unlike many offices with the same name in other countries, the Office of the Ombudsman of the Philippines is an "independent" office empowered by the Constitution to safeguard the government and government-related institutions and corporations from corruption and dispense justice in the case of such offenses.

The term "ombudsman," is of Nordic origin, It originated and is concieved generally as a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing the broad scope of constituent interests. Usually appointed by the organization, but sometimes elected by the constituency, the ombudsman may, for example, investigate constituent complaints relating to the organization and attempt to resolve them, usually through recommendations (binding or not) or mediation. Ombudsmen sometimes identify organizational roadblocks running counter to constituent interests.

In the Philippines the Ombudsman is responsible for investigating and prosecuting government officials who are allegedly guilty of crimes. Thus it is the principal anti-corruption agency of the government.

The Office of the Ombudsman independently monitors the government and all three of its branches. The Ombudsman is also responsible for receiving complaints from citizens, organizations, corporations, etc from the country. The Ombudsman prosecutes officials who are allegedly involved in acts of graft and corruption.

The Office of the Ombudsman is provided for in the 1987 Constitution as follows:

Accountability of Public Officers

"SECTION 5. There is hereby created the independent Office of the Ombudsman, composed of the Ombudsman to be known as Tanodbayan, one overall Deputy, and at least one Deputy each for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao . A separate Deputy for the military establishment may likewise be appointed.

SECTION 6. The officials and employees of the Office of the Ombudsman, other than the Deputies, shall be appointed by the Ombudsman according to the Civil Service Law.

SECTION 7. The existing Tanodbayan shall hereafter be known as the Office of the Special Prosecutor. It shall continue to function and exercise its powers as now or hereafter may be provided by law, except those conferred on the Office of the Ombudsman created under this Constitution.

SECTION 8. The Ombudsman and his Deputies shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines , and at the time of their appointment, at least forty years old, of recognized probity and independence, and members of the Philippine Bar, and must not have been candidates for any elective office in the immediately preceding election. The Ombudsman must have for ten years or more been a judge or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines .

During their tenure, they shall be subject to the same disqualifications and prohibitions as provided for in Section 2 of Article IX-A of this Constitution.

SECTION 9. The Ombudsman and his Deputies shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least six nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council, and from a list of three nominees for every vacancy thereafter. Such appointments shall require no confirmation. All vacancies shall be filled within three months after they occur.

SECTION 10. The Ombudsman and his Deputies shall have the rank of Chairman and Members, respectively, of the Constitutional Commissions, and they shall receive the same salary, which shall not be decreased during their term of office.

SECTION 11. The Ombudsman and his Deputies shall serve for a term of seven years without reappointment. They shall not be qualified to run for any office in the election immediately succeeding their cessation from office.

SECTION 12. The Ombudsman and his Deputies, as protectors of the people, shall act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the Government, or any agency, subdivision or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, and shall, in appropriate cases, notify the complainants of the actions taken and the result thereof.

SECTION 13. The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the following powers, functions, and duties :

(1) Investigate on its own, or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public official, employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient.

(2) Direct, upon complaint or at its own instance, any public official or employee of the Government, or any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, as well as of any government-owned or controlled corporation with original charter, to perform and expedite any act or duty required by law, or to stop, prevent, and correct any abuse or impropriety in the performance of duties.

(3) Direct the officer concerned to take appropriate action against a public official or employee at fault, and recommend his removal, suspension, demotion, fine, censure, or prosecution, and ensure compliance therewith.

(4) Direct the officer concerned, in any appropriate case, and subject to such limitations as may be provided by law, to furnish it with copies of documents relating to contracts and transactions entered into by his office involving the disbursement or use of public funds or properties, and report any irregularity to the Commission on Audit for appropriate action.

(5) Request any government agency for assistance and information necessary in the discharge of its responsibilities, and to examine, if necessary, pertinent records and documents.

(6) Publicize matters covered by its investigation when circumstances so warrant and with due prudence.

(7) Determine the causes of inefficiency, red tape, mismanagement, fraud, and corruption in the Government and make recommendations for their elimination and the observance of high standards of ethics and efficiency.

(8) Promulgate its rules of procedure and exercise such other powers or perform such functions or duties as may be provided by law.

SECTION 14. The Office of the Ombudsman shall enjoy fiscal autonomy. Its approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released."

From the Transparency International  National Integrity Systems Country Study 2006


Article XI of the 1987 constitution provides for the establishment of an Office of the Ombudsman nd endows it with fiscal autonomy and constitutional independence. The OMB is the country’s premiere anti-corruption body, lead government agency and primary integrity institution responsible for curbing graft and corruption. The constitution grants it powers to investigate itizens’ complaints against public officials; direct public officials or agencies to correct abuse and impropriety; recommend penalties and punishment; direct the furnishing of reports; request other government agencies for assistance; publicise matters of jurisprudence; determine causes of inefficiency, red tape, mismanagement, fraud and corruption in government; make recommendations for elimination of corruption and the observance of high standards of ethics and efficiency; and promulgate rules of procedure. The Tanodbayan (ombudsman) and his or her deputies serve as ‘protectors of the people’.

Compared to anti-corruption agencies in other countries, the Philippine OMB is one of the most powerful,  underpinned by a comprehensive regulatory framework known as ‘The Ombudsman Act of 1989’ (RA No 6770). The act grants the OMB preventive, investigatory and prosecutorial powers and requires it to assist the public and to provide administrative resolution to corrupt cases. Unlike other national counterparts, the OMB can act on mere suspicion of wrong-doing and on anonymous complaints. Tanodbayan Simeon Marcelo, a former ombudsman, has described its functions as ‘catalytic’ in promoting high standards of integrity, honesty and responsibility.

In 2004 the office was under-resourced, but in 2005 its budget was increased by 70 per cent to include provisions for the hiring of much-needed prosecutors and field investigators. Congress granted an additional PHP 200 million to support enhancement of existing programmes and projects for implementation and execution and to help bring the office up to par with other anticorruption counterparts in Asia, such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong. This was a step in the right direction, as a lack of finance, manpower and equipment had been identified as a reason for the office’s low rate of success.

In terms of accountability, the OMB is required to submit an annual report to the president, vicepresident and the legislature, which includes the Senate president, speaker of the House of Representatives and members of Congress. In 2004, 8 orientation briefings and 17 public accountability seminars were held. Regular public consultation and public oversight occurred with civil society. The EC-Omb Corruption Prevention Project, Component 2, concentrates efforts to win wider public cooperation through publicity campaigns, texting communications in Mindanao, interactive portals, informative websites and a Report Card Survey.

There is a critical mass of support by international donors; the Millennium Challenge AccountbThreshold Programme funded by the United States will be injecting US $21 million to help the OMB’s reform agenda. The president assigned a counterpart fund of PHP 1 billion to assist the OMB to make the country eligible for Millennium Challenge Account compact status within the next two years.

The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713) covers OMB.97 The Ombudsman Act of 1989’s Code of Conduct stresses disclosure of relationships, prohibition and disqualification. Internal regulations were passed in January 2005 covering Norms of Behaviour, including ethical standards, gifts and benefits, internal whistleblowing and postemployment restrictions, and have been reiterated by Office Order No. 05-13 to 05-15, Series 2005.; this does not allow interaction between past and present employees to avoid breaches of confidentiality, particularly among those handling pending cases. OMB employees are not allowed to become involved in procurement or recommend relatives for employment or private lawyers to defendants. Gifts above PHP 2,000 are recorded by the Gift Registry Board and kept in custody by the Internal Affairs Board, which serves as a channel for internal complaints. Perishable goods like  foods, often given by Filipinos, are donated to charities. Penalties are in the form of disciplinary action, suspension, fines and dismissal with forfeiture of benefits. The Tanodbayan serves for seven years without reappointment and may only be removed by impeachment for treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust. In terms of postemployment restrictions, employees are not allowed to work in the private sector or in firms previously related to their work until a year after they have left the OMB.

OMB is subject to declaration of the SALN and a disclosure of business interests and financial connections, as well as divestment. Also, a disclosure of relationship is required under which OMB officials must publicly disclose any relationships with other government employees. The OMB publishes internal monthly journals with information about its activities. It issues rules on internal whistleblowing and reporting and deals with reprisal, anonymity and processing issues through internal memoranda. It has also decided to tap text power to permit citizens to fight graft and corruption and is in the process of establishing a system that allows people to report graft by sending messages to designated cellular phone hotlines.

The OMB leads the Lifestyle Check Coaliton initiative, investigates graft-ridden departments and corruption in the military, coordinates with DOJ and local government using field investigation ffices and interacts with the judiciary, particularly the Sandiganbayan. The new ombudsman, Merceditas Gutierrez, has a formidable reputation for expeditious resolution of cases and efficient case management.98 In the latest PDF meeting, Ombudsman Gutierrez announced the conviction by the Sandiganbayan of two mayors and seven officials at director level.99 With strong leadership and new injections of money, the OMB can continu building capacity to increase both ‘small-fry’ and ‘big-fish’ convictions, remove perceptions of political intervention in the appointment system and increase institutional strengthening to eradicate institutional discontinuity and perceptions of the ‘revolving door syndrome’.

The environmental Ombudsman

 by Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez in Business Mirror - 10 June 2010

A fact little known by many is that in the Office of the Ombudsman we have created a Task Force for Environmental Concerns headed by the Environmental Ombudsman. Its members are culled from various Ombudsman offices and stations around the country—the central office and the offices in Cebu, Iloilo and Mindanao.

The task force’s main task is to investigate and file the necessary complaints against public officials and employees who violate laws and regulations on the environment, whether on their own or in conspiracy with private persons.

There are today many laws on the protection of the environment. I can only name for now a few of them. They include the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001, the Philippine Ecological Waste Management Act of 2000, the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999, the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997, the High-Value Crops Development Act of 1995, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, and the Marine Pollution Decree of 1976.

But what have we got to show? Here are some statistics we need to know: (a) we are now about 85 million in population, with around 200 more Filipinos being added to our numbers every hour, (b) the country’s forest cover has decreased from 21 million hectares to 7.2 million hectares, (c) less than 5 percent of Philippine reefs are in excellent condition, (d) almost 60 percent of all our groundwater is contaminated, posing severe health risks to all of us, and (e) in Metro Manila alone, we generate a total of 7,000 tons of trash every day.

We created the task force on the environment because our main job of fighting corruption has some critical connection with environmental degradation. We recognize that official corruption has led, and continues to lead, to environmental harm. Before it is too late, we need to promote law enforcement and deter or punish those involved in corruption in the area of environmental protection. All communities exist within and because of the environment. To degrade this environment is to degrade ourselves and threaten our very existence.

Because we live and are part of the environment, the value and the respect we place on the environment reflect our values and character as a people. In becoming involved in the fight against corruption that leads to environmental neglect and destruction, we hope to impress upon our people that we are just part of something that is larger than ourselves, and our collective and individual duty is to help sustain the very environment that basically sustains us, and because of which we are enabled to enjoy life with nature’s fruits and its bounties.

But the real issue at bottom is about sustainable development as a whole. In the end, it is about the reduction of poverty; it is about widening educational opportunities; about tackling diseases; about sanitation within our various communities; about creating jobs for our people and linking all of these goals to the primordial objective of conserving the natural resources, and then taking deliberate and positive steps to allow those resources to grow and flourish, because upon them we depend for clean water, food, fresh air and the quality of life itself.

In addition to our reactive, prosecutorial approach toward solving environment problems caused by corruption, we are also embarking on a preventive, proactive approach to solving the same thing. We are strengthening our linkages with other government offices whose mandates have something to do with environmental protection and promotion, such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. We are also tying up with local government units where environmental protection is badly needed.

By our involvement, we hope to raise awareness and sensitivity to environmental issues and concerns. We want to see the day when all officialdom, wherever they are positioned, will be in full compliance with laws and regulations that champion the cause of the environment in one way or another. If not, the Environmental Ombudsman will surely be hot on their heels.


MESSY SITUATIONS: by Jose C. Sison in The Philippine Star, April 15, 2011 >>> Since its creation under the 1987 Constitution, this is the first time that the Office of the Ombudsman has been mired into messy situations that reflect the very opposite of the purpose for which it was conceived. The Ombudsman is supposed to be the guardian and protector of the people, of the "little man who needs protection from being possibly trampled by the vast juggernaut of the government machine" that has become "terribly complicated and too impersonal" because of the "burgeoning of the bureaucracy", as Con Con Delegate Rodolfo D. Robles explained. Hence, it is locally denominated as the "Tanodbayan"...(a history of the Philippine OMB follows here)...But as it is now turning out, it seems that the people themselves are the ones who need protection from their own guardian and protector. The Ombudsman herself has been impeached by the House of Representatives because she allegedly betrayed the people's trust by protecting the interest of some government officials instead of their interest as shown by her inaction on some complaints involving anomalous deals of the past government amounting to billions of pesos. Then one of her deputies, Emilio Gonzales III has been found to have allegedly mishandled the case of the police officer who held hostage a busload of Hong Kong tourists and killed eight of them on August 23, 2010, before the police himself was killed in a bungled rescue operation. These situations would not have been as messy as they are now but for the supposed political independence of the Office that makes removal of the incumbents involved in irregularities, a long and difficult process...These latest episodes show why graft and corruption are still rampant and cannot be eliminated here. Government officials are not afraid to commit graft and corruption believing that under our process, they can get away with them because the watchdogs seem to be not doing their job properly and with integrity.

As the people’s champion, the office is mandated to investigate and prosecute anomalies; direct, expedite or prevent impropriety in the performance of duties by public official and employees; and determine the causes of inefficiency, red tape, mismanagement, fraud, and corruption in the government, and make recommendations for their elimination.
In response to the demands of the times, the pursuit of our mandate to combat corruption has undergone a paradigm shift – we have adopted the preventive approach which must be given the same emphasis that has been traditionally given to the enforcement or punitive approach. Under the preventive approach, public sector systems must be designed to prevent incidences of corruption. Thus, the Integrity Development Review program or IDR was conceived and implemented. The IDR is a diagnostic tool for identifying the vulnerabilities of government agencies to corruption and for assessing the robustness of corruption resistance mechanisms they have in place. Since its first run in 2006, there have already been 16 agencies which underwent the program. Reforms based on the IDR recommendations are already being implemented by the agencies that took part, such as piloting of electronic payment of customs duties in the Bureau of Customs, revalida of audit and collection cases in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and significant reduction of veterans benefits payments from 3 months to 10 days at the PVAO, to name a few. The IDR program is now a flagship program of the Office under the PACPO through its Bureau of Resident Ombudsman.
From message of Ombudsman ON OMB's 21st Anniversary, May 14, 2009

Click here to go to OMB page containing report of IDR's of 16 government agencies done in 2006/7

The Integrity Development Review (IDR) is a process of building and sustaining an agency’s ability to prevent corruption from happening. It is about integrating corruption resistance strategies into the various organizational facets of an agency so that factors that contribute to corrupt behavior can be checked and those that discourage corrupt acts or malfeasance are reinforced...

The IDR is a preventive measure against corruption. It aims to build institutional foundations to prevent corruption before it occurs. It entails a systematic diagnosis of the corruption resistance mechanisms in place in an agency and its vulnerabilities to corruption. The process is undertaken with the use of two major tools: (1) Corruption Resistance Review (CRR), which was developed by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of New South Wales and (2) Corruption Vulnerability Assessment (CVA), a tool adapted by DAP from the Office of Management and Budget, USA. A summary of these tools follows:

Tool 1: CRR

IDA - Self-assess systems, integrity, review relevant policies                          and procedures

Survey - Assess deployment of integrity, review relevant policies and procedures

Indicators Research - Validate assessment made by management on the 10 dimensions

Tool 2: CVA

Process Mapping - Understand agency procedures

Risk Assessment - Identify factors that can induce deceit, malfeasance or abuse of power or position for private gain

Evaluation of Controls & Safeguards - Assess the adequacy of means in addressing risks

External parties can do diagnosis objectively. But self-assessment would be ideal especially for reform oriented agencies. This is the idea behind the IDR Project. This aims to support the leadership and management of the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) in improving governance in the public sector by providing tools for objective assessment of corruption vulnerability and resistance of agencies. The project is implemented by the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP).

COA as formidable ally in anticorruption

by Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Traditionally, one of the most formidable allies of the Office of the Ombudsman in fighting corruption is the Commission on Audit. COA auditors shift through the mountain of data relative to the accounts, advances made and expenses incurred by various agencies of government, including local government units (LGUs), and analyze their conformance with auditing rules and regulations. Then they issue their report.

When these auditors spot a violation, they typically first try to effect a correction or settlement by the agency or LGU itself, since, after all, the violations uncovered might have only been an accounting mistake. If after a time no correction is made, the auditors sound off to the Office of the Ombudsman, which then initiates an investigation.

For sometime now, our office has been firming up working our long-standing relationship with COA. We have been engaged in discussions and workshops on how to improve the interface between our two offices and strengthen linkages between us. We are aware that what COA does, or fails to do, regarding its own constitutionally mandated oversight functions over government accounts would have an important impact on our own case build-up or prosecution against erring agencies or public officials. Often, cases on corruption are won and lost by the quality and completeness of the audit and accounting work driving the charges before the court. Hence the importance of improved collaborative work between our office and COA cannot be under-stressed.

We have, in fact, been shooting for a more effective collaborative regime between our two offices. This regime, to be sure, has always been there but is constantly revisited. It would include, but would not be limited to, the pooling of resources, the sharing of information, the conduct of case conferences, especially regarding difficult or complex cases, the creation of a joint task force for specific cases requiring highly technical and multi-
disciplinary skills and strategies to prosecute, training in evidence gathering along with evidence preservation and custody (sometimes cases are lost because the rules developed by the courts regarding, say, the chain of evidence, are not properly observed), periodic dialogues between representatives of both offices to discuss problems encountered.

We are also shooting to develop a joint prosecution manual that could guide those concerned on the step-by-step necessities involved in the handling of cases from the investigation stage up to the prosecution stage. Necessarily, this would require joint training exercises on the proper use and application of said manual. COA has committed itself to put up and make available a special pool of auditors that would familiarize Ombudsman lawyers in COA rules and regulations, government financial transactions, audit procedures and techniques. In turn we have committed ourselves to also come up with our own special pool of lawyers that would train COA auditors in proper legal procedures that would ensure, most of all, due process for those under investigation.

All these have been borne out of the realization on the part of both COA and the Office of the Ombudsman that we have a shared responsibility for the effective determination, investigation, prosecution and monitoring of anticorruption cases with high technical content filed against erring officials, employees and those individuals in the private sector who have aided the officials in their corrupt acts, or otherwise conspired with them. Specifically, we recognize the unique strength and role that COA plays in the fight against corruption, it having its own real contribution in ensuring the highest standards of ethics, efficiency and excellence in public service. Although it has its own constitutional mandate that is separate and independent from that of the Ombudsman, we do have a common goal—that of ensuring that government machinery does its job well for the people without corruption.

COA and our office will sign a Memorandum of Agreement embodying and memorializing much of what I had mentioned above. We hope this agreement will not only guide us as to what we need to do in the immediate future but also lead the way for us, and, beyond us, for other agencies of government as well, toward greater coordination and cooperation in the future in the universal fight against corruption. Under the agreement, both parties will undertake joint public awareness campaigns designed to decrease the incidence of corruption in every level of government.

It is to COA’s credit that its officials and personnel have always been supportive of our own efforts, as the lead anticorruption agency in government, to stem, if not altogether eradicate, the scourge of corruption in our midst. To COA’s past top officials and now to its present crop of top officials, headed by chairman Reynaldo Villar, goes our deep gratitude. I do not think anybody can accurately predict just what long-term good for our country can be achieved by COA’s continuing cooperative attitude.

I welcome feedback at ombproper@ombudsman.gov.ph This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The above is meant only as a general guide, and is not a prediction of what the Ombudsman will do in actual cases. The assistance of counsel must be sought for specific advice as to rights and obligations also in actual cases.



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