MANILA, Oct 6 (Mabuhay) – A lawmaker wants to give the Office of the Ombudsman wiretapping powers in a bid to boost its powers to investigate acts of graft and corruption.
Pangasinan Representative Marlyn Primicias Agabas filed House Bill 5044, entitled “An Act strengthening the institutional capacity of the Office of the Ombudsman by amending certain provisions of R.A. 6770, otherwise known as ‘The Ombudsman Act of 1989.’” It was referred to the House justice committee.
Agabas, who chairs the House committee on revision of laws, said her bill wants to grant the Ombudsman additional powers to implement the country’s anti-graft laws.
“In view of the current situation where there’s prevalence and continued rise in graft and corruption cases, the powers of the Office of the Ombudsman provided under R.A. 6770 are no longer enough to combat this social and institutional menace,” Agabas said.
The bill wants the Ombudsman to have wiretapping powers. It seeks to amend the Anti-wiretapping law to allow wiretapping on offenses like plunder, violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth, and crimes committed by public officers under the Revised Penal Code, among others.
Wiretapping may only be allowed after applying for a judicial authority, the bill said.
The measure also wants to give the Ombudsman powers to compel and secure the attendance of a witness or the production of evidence, as well as to access bank and non-bank accounts, records and transactions like deposits, trusts, investments, even prior to the filing of a case before a court of competent jurisdiction.
The Ombudsman may also inspect or break into any government office or any public premises in the course of an ongoing criminal or administrative investigation, and seize any object or article found that may be used as evidence.
Besides the additional powers, the Ombudsman may also “exercise of exclusive jurisdiction over cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan and, pursuant to such exclusive jurisdiction, take over, at any stage, from any investigatory agency, if, in its determination, public interest will be served thereby.”
It may also “represent itself, the Republic of the Philippines, or the people of the Philippines in any judicial, administrative, civil or official proceeding involving cases within its jurisdiction before any court, tribunal, agency, or office without need of prior clearance, authority or deputation from any other office or agency, including the Office of the Solicitor General.”
The office may also “deputize private lawyers to act as investigators or prosecutors to act under the direct control and supervision of the Ombudsman in cases being handled by the office, when special and meritorious circumstances so warrant.”
The bill also seeks to make Ombudsman investigators and prosecutors immune from criminal, administrative or civil suits that may arise from the exercise of their functions. (MNS)