Politicizing the Office of the Ombudsman

The concept of an Ombudsman in the 1986 Philippine Consititution was a novel idea and grew out of the concerns against the cronyism, graft, and corruption of the Marcos era. The Ombudsman was intended to be the cintizenry’s champion against graft and corruption. The first Ombudsmen appointed were elderly lawyers with unblemished records in government or the private sector. In recent years, however, realizing perhaps the utility of the Office of the Ombudsman in forcing nasty political foes to tow the line, the President of the Philippines has seen fit to appoint politically savvy Ombudsmen. Now, the situation is so critical that the President of the Philippines has personally declared that the removal in office of the current Ombudsman, Merceditas Gutierrez, is an important objective of his Presidency and has called on his own cronies in Congress to see to it that this is accomplished as soon as possible. This has brought a constitutional office into the political limelight with the impeachment and trial of the Ombudsman. While the politicization was only subtly suggested in former administrations, the President himself now has unabashedly declared that this is a political issue. But is it good for a young democracy like the Philippines to politicize even heretofore considered constitutionally sacrosanct offices?? Precisely, is the impeachment process truly a political process or one that is more judicial than anything else?? What would now happen shoudl the Ombudsman be actually ousted or removed from office?? Would the President’s cronies now immune from scrutiny by the office of the Ombudsman when the new appointment is made?? Worse, the Ombudsman woudl be indebted to the political powers that be, and would expectedly single out the President’s enemies.

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