PHILIPPINES: Ombudsman investigated public officers for years without a case filed


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-039-2011
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Extrajudicial killings, Right to remedy,

Dear friends,

Similar to other cases raised with the Office of the Ombudsman, they also concluded to terminate two separate complaints, after years of investigating, against court personnel and the police officers for ‘having no power to discipline’ and for being “moot and academic” respectively.


Complaint vs court personnel: ‘No power to discipline’ 

In our appeal (UP-233-2006) in June 23, 2006, we raised concerns about the action by court personnel for deliberately misinforming an NGO staff helping the families of the victims of extrajudicial killings that the arrest order for a military sergeant, Jerry Napoles and his accomplice, accused of murder had not yet been issued.

In writing to the Ombudsman, we asked them to investigate the staff of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 31 in Tagum City for the “alleged attempts by some Court personnel to both suppress the arrest warrants and to prevent their issuing being made public knowledge”. We also expect the Ombudsman to identify the personnel involved in its investigation.

The court personnel had deliberately misinformed the staff of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) – Mindanao, who repeatedly inquired from them on November and December 2006. Despite knowing the arrest order has already been issued November 22, they told the NGO staff that it has “yet to be issued by the Court Judge “.

Photo: Talib Japalali, elder brother of victim Bacar Japalali.

The action of the court personnel has deprived the family of murder victims Bacar Japalali and his wife, Carmen, who are party to the case; and the NGO providing them legal aid, the information substantial to the immediate arrest of the accused. The court personnel were never identified in the course of investigation.

THE CLOSURE: Ombudsman’s opinion contradictory to DoJ

In its Fact Finding Report dated March 20, 2007 but received by the AHRC in February 18, 2010, four years after we made our complaint by way of an appeal letter, Julius Java, associate graft investigation officer, concluded that:

A thorough evaluation of the letter-complaint revealed that the acts complained of pertain to the misdemeanor of concerned personnel of Branch 31, Regional Trial Court, Tagum City. 

Pursuant to the 1987 Constitution Art. VIII Sec. 6 which provides that “The Supreme Court shall have administrative supervision over all courts and personnel thereof”. Only the Supreme Court is empowered to discipline its members including court personnel and impose appropriate sanctions or penalties, if warranted .”

However, Java’s legal argument contradicts to the “advise” of Raul Gonzalez, the former secretary of the Department of Justice (DoJ), in his letter to the AHRC dated February 1, 2007 on the same case that:

We advise you to file the same with the Office of the Ombudsman, as there is no law which limits the jurisdiction of the latter to cases against public officers and employees involving acts or omission in relation to their office

The copy of Java’s report was received only four years after Christopher Lock, court administrator of the Supreme Court, had exonerated the court personnel from any liability in his letter to the AHRC dated January 26, 2007. Lock argued that “we find nothing irregular in the service and implementation of said warrants”. 

Photo: Hall of Justice in Tagum City

Before our complaint was dismissed, Lock did conduct an investigation but merely by way of “our telephone conversation with Atty. Rucel C. Cayetano, Branch Clerk of Court”. The AHRC questions the ground on which Lock reached his decision. The person that Lock had spoken to lacked credibility. She belongs to the office subject of the complaint. Also, the complaining party has not been asked to comment on the matter.

The Ombudsman should have used its authority, as mentioned by the DoJ, to take jurisdiction on this complaint at early stage because the allegations in our original complaint have not been adequately resolved. But Java concluded by mere presumption, since copies of our complaints were also furnished to the Supreme Court, that:

Thus, further action is no longer warranted since the said letter-complaint has already been lodged in the proper venue, that is, the Court concerned and the Supreme Court. 

Considering that the instant case has already reached the proper disciplinary authority, further action is no longer warranted .”

Complaint vs policemen: “moot and academic”

In another complaint, we reported on May 26, 2007 (UP-076-2007), that the policemen attached to the Mawab Municipal Police Station (MMPS) have also failed to enforce the arrest of the military officers who are subject of the court order; and the failure of the military leadership to turn over their men to police custody.

The Ombudsman did investigate our complaint but it took them over a year to complete its Final Report. In their report dated September 30, 2008, which was received by the AHRC only November 26, 2008, Danilo Rimonte, graft prevention and control officer, again closed and terminated our complaint arguing that:

From the foregoing, it is evident that the issue being raised by the AHRC relative to the implementation of the arrest orders of Sgt. Napoles, et. al., is now rendered moot and academic. 

PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully recommended that the instant Request for Assistance be considered CLOSED and TERMINATED .”

While it is true that the subject of the complaint have already been addressed when they completed their Final Report; however, the inability of the Ombudsman to complete their investigation promptly on cases requiring urgent action was exactly the reason why the complaint have become “moot and academic”.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-039-2011
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Administration of justice, Extrajudicial killings, Right to remedy,