Bad grammar hampering cases at Ombudsman

Posted at 07/20/13 1:25 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Blame it on bad grammar.

Apart from the usual factors causing delays in the disposition of cases such as the lack of witnesses and numerous motions, the Office of the Ombudsman has cited another problem area: the bad grammar of the anti-graft agency’s lawyers.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Friday said poor writing skills contribute to the delay in the disposition of pending cases filed against erring government officials and employees.

Morales said they want to fix this problem by helping improve the skills of their legal teams in deciding cases and drafting action papers through seminars and other activities with the help of the British embassy.

“In the course of office operations, we have observed that action papers submitted for review reveal certain areas that need improvement,” Morales said during the launch of the Rapid Assessment and Seminar on Case Analysis and Legal Draftsmanship (RASCALD) initiative.

She said problems encountered include “grammar, typographical errors, inconsistencies, poor presentation and appreciation of facts and issues, and erroneous appreciation of applicable jurisprudence.”

“I’m a bit uncomfortable with this topic because it’s difficult to vary the style of another,” she told newsmen after announcing that among things that lawyers must be taught is the Office of the Ombudsman’s writing style or what newspapers would refer to as the stylebook.

“It is difficult to vary one’s style but perhaps what we have in mind about the Ombudsman’s writing style is that we should be lucid, we should be concise, we should be logical. We should be able to accent early on what the case is all about,” Morales said.

In an interview with The STAR, Assistant Ombudsman and spokesperson Asryman Rafanan admitted that there are lawyers in the anti-graft agency whose writing skills do not pass the standards of their boss, a former associate justice of the Supreme Court.

“There are cases (that go) through a lot of editing and revisions, sometimes involving simple or basic things. So it adds to the delay,” he said.

“Either they lack explanation, their English is not refined, or they are not careful in writing and no longer read it for the second time,” Rafanan said.

“If a party would receive a decision, it should be easily understood. The findings should be clear,” he added. With the RASCALD project and the grant from the British embassy in Manila, the Office of the Ombudsman said they “will be able to further strengthen the capacity of the agency’s 280 lawyers nationwide in the areas of case analysis and legal drafting.”

Morales reported that from August 2011 when she assumed office to March 2013 this year, the anti-graft agency was able to resolve 5,609 criminal and 5,898 administrative cases, and 25 percent of the same resulted in the filing of charges and the imposition of penalties. In simple ceremonies, Morales and British embassy Manila Charg d’Affaires Trevor Lewis signed an Accountable Grant Agreement for the RASCALD initiative, which is projecting an increase in the case disposition rate of the anti-graft agency by 25 percent by the end of 2015 and eventually a zero case backlog status by 2018.

Dennis Russell Baldago, director of the ombudsman’s Project Management Bureau, said that under the project, a rapid assessment of the agency’s performance and implementation of its seven-year policy thrust and eight-point agenda will also be conducted to aid it in formulating a roadmap for the next five years.