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MANILA, Philippines - (Editor's note: In the US, a mere independent counsel, not a constitutional official, can initiate investigations that can lead to the impeachment of a President, as noted by the author.)

OMBUDSMAN is a Swedish term for "representative," an independent public officer appointed to investigate complaints from citizens about abuses, unreasonable acts, or delays by government agencies. The ombudsman may also initiate investigations to protect citizens from governmental abuse.

The office of the ombudsman originated in Sweden in 1809. Ombudsmen were appointed by the parliament and had the authority to inquire into executive and some judiciary administrative activities. Following Sweden's lead, national ombudsmen were created by Finland (1919), Denmark (1954), New Zealand (1962), Norway (1963), and Britain (1967) as did the Netherlands and Spain, both in 1981. A modified form evolved in Israel and Australia. In 1967, Hawaii became the first US state to create the office of the ombudsman followed by Oregon, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Carolina, and other states.

Constitutional office

Our independent Office of the Ombudsman is a creation of the 1987 Constitution and clothed with near-absolute powers, functions, and duties. Since 1987, this office has been in the forefront of handing down administrative penalties and charging high officials with plunder, malversation, and other acts amounting to graft and corruption. In 2001, the Ombudsman charged President Erap with plunder, he was convicted but immediately pardoned after a detention and house arrest lasting six years.

Significant transactions

And this week, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales testified against CJ Corona on "significant transactions" involving the reported bank accounts of the respondent amounting to millions of dollars.

Two or three senator-judges questioned the Ombudsman's testimony as a violation of bank secrecy laws covering foreign currencies. The Senate is now facing a clearly important question whether to admit the testimony as evidence against Corona. Disclosures of large dollar deposits and withdrawals were violations of laws covering deposits of foreign currencies.

The power to investigate

But let's not forget that the Ombudsman, like the justices of the Supreme Court, may be removed from office on impeachment and enjoys full independence. …

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