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Ombudsman ‘right’ for stopping lifestyle checks: Palace

September 24, 2020 - Thursday 2:09 PM by PNA

Article Banner Image Ombudsman Samuel Martires. File photo

MANILA – Ombudsman Samuel Martires was “right” about stopping lifestyle checks on government officials, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he agreed with the Ombudsman’s decision since it was “easy” for corrupt officials to hide their ill-gotten wealth.

“Well, ako po, as a lawyer ‘no, mukhang tama po si Ombudsman kasi napakadali pong magtago ng (it seems the Ombudsman is right, it’s easy to hide) ill-gotten wealth,” he said in an interview over CNN Philippines.

Roque acknowledged that there may be a time when those corrupt would “flaunt” their ill-gotten wealth, but noted that many of them could also pretend to live modest lives.

“Times have changed, ngayon (now) they could live modest lives, even they could use dummies for their bank deposits and can pretend to have modest lives even if they have trillions and billions of ill-gotten wealth,” he said.

He said lifestyle checks would only be effective if corrupt officials have “no shame” in showing their assets.

Roque said the Palace also respects the Ombudsman’s decision as a constitutional body.

He also said strengthening the anti-money laundering law would be the most effective way to identify corrupt officials.

“I think what he considers as more important would be enforcement of the anti-money laundering law because that’s really the best way to determine if one’s income as a government employee can justify his assets that are hidden,” he said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has agreed with Martires' position limiting the use of "lifestyle checks" on state officials and employees.

"I fully understand where the honorable Ombudsman is coming from. Indeed, a lifestyle check as a stand-alone measure will not conclusively indicate whether a person is engaged in some wrongdoing to enrich himself," Guevarra said on Wednesday.

Guevarra said a lifestyle check has to be intertwined with a deeper process of investigating specific acts of corruption or other crimes.

He said it meant “to strengthen a finding of wrongdoing, as manifested in the lifestyle of the person concerned”.

"In any event, government officials and employees, no matter how well-to-do or wealthy they are, are encouraged to live and project a modest life as public servants," he said.

During a House hearing on the proposed budget of the Office of the Ombudsman, Martires said the law that covers lifestyle check on public officials is “illogical" and should be amended.

He was referring to Republic Act No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials provides that public officials and employees and their families “shall lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income” and that “they should not indulge in an extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth in any form.”

“What is living beyond your means? If he earns PHP50,000 monthly, lives in a small house, (is) able to save and bought a BMW on a promo and zero-interest basis, he can afford to buy it. Is he living beyond his means? I don’t think so. What he has are distorted values and distorted priorities,” he said.  Azer Parrocha with reports of Benjamin Pulta