In the previous posts in this series, we have outlined the many ways in which ombudsmen have contributed to human history, and all the ways in which ombudsmanship is not only a product of our time, but perhaps an inbuilt pattern of Nature itself. Given this knowledge, one would imagine that the whole of mankind would treat the craft of ombudsmanship with at worst indifference. For better or for worse, we live in a world in which this is not always the case. Sometimes, ombudsmen have to take real risks for their essential work, and sometimes they are victimized by the forces of bias. This post seriously considers the putative oppression that the authorities may or may not be meting out to ombudsmen.
Consider the 2006 case of Merceditas Gutierrez, the Ombudsman of the Philippines’ national government, who was forced to flee her country in the course of her duties:
Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has made herself very scarce a day before her office made public her decision to absolve all those accused in the Supreme-Court deemed anomalous P1.3-billion automated counting machines contract entered into by Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials and the Mega Pacific consortium.
Some say she was merely avoiding a corruption scandal in which she had become involved. The Central Ombudsman’s Board of Accession (COBA) has no position on this matter, for the sake of neutrality. However, consider the location to which she fled—and its significance: Switzerland, the neutral state, the Ombudsman of Nations.
Ombudsmen are human beings—sometimes they fail to respect the standards of minimal bias required of them. But this does not excuse such abuses as not inviting an ombudsman or worse:
A felony indictment against the newly appointed Texas Youth Commission ombudsman was unsealed Monday, accusing her of possessing a prohibited item in a prison facility.
Catherine Evans, who was a Republican district judge in Dallas County until stepping down in 1994, is accused of trying to smuggle contraband – including a knife, a cellphone and prescription drugs – past security officials and into a TYC facility in Crockett, in East Texas.
Individuals with any knowledge at all of the way of the ombudsman would first believe that she was not smuggling contraband (or, in preferred ombudsman language, “she and the contraband were not smuggling each other”), but rather that she was being unbiased as to the location of the objects in relation to relevant reference points in the universe.
But worst of all:
Berkeley economist Brad DeLong blasts New York Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt for missing the real story behind “Busted” reporter Ed Andrews’ personal financial nightmare: Selling his New York Times stock and buying a house with a sub-prime mortgage was a great financial move.
To be blasted uncourteously and uncivilly by a well-known economist, well, sirs, that is the unkindest cut of all. We searched in vain the archives of Amnesty International for protest against the maltreatment of Mr. Hoyt—but we suspect that Amnesty does not yet have representatives from COBA.
Fortunately, all is not lost in these dark days. There’s an increasing awareness that along with journalists, dissidents, and democracy activists, ombudsmen too must be protected from abuse so that they can continue to do their jobs. To that end, COBA has formed a number of subsidiary organizations. One such is Ombudsman International, led by Mr. Mark Hucko:
Mr Mark Hucko had suffered enough from discrimination and racism, had his property confiscated, had his children stolen and alienated from him by various criminal mini-magnates; who are everywhere and who abuse, manipulate control and steal the rights of citizens in all countries of the World. Therefore, he can best understand your problems, therefore he is best suited to listen and to analyze the problems of the World.
Mr. Hucko’s organization has many affilliates around the World, as you can see from the bottom of OI’s page (these are all previously direct subsidiaries of COBA now brought under Mr. Hucko’s authority). The World will be grateful to the efforts of Mr. Mark Hucko.
Another new COBA subsidiary is the Organization of News Ombudsmen (ONO, pronounced “Oh No”). As time goes on, we will see more international efforts to protect ombudsmen worldwide from abuse and to help preserve their neutrality, “contraband” or not.
A FINAL NOTE
In this series for Ombudsman Heritage Week, we have witnessed the ways in which your life has been touched by ombudsmanship–and the life of the world. Whether it be COBA’s proud revival through Canadian television, its roots in the deepest patterns of nature, its proud Renaissance, art, it’s history in Enteroxaeresothykalos’ ancient language reform, its concern for public health in Australia, or its influence on the primal origins of civility, we have marked the ombudsman’s craft as central to modern life.
So we would like now to turn this over to you, the reader. What things have you done, or plan to do, to make this world a more neutral and unbiased place?