SENATE Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday said Executive Order (EO) 43, which created the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, cannot investigate those outside the executive branch.
EO 43, signed by Duterte on October 4, has been designated to directly assist the President in investigating and hearing administrative cases of graft and corruption against all presidential appointees.
Drilon explained that by virtue of constitutional independence, the EO cannot be used to discipline or recommend actions against any member, official and employee of other branches of government, including Congress, the Judiciary, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Audit, Commission on Elections, Commission on Human Rights, and the Office of the Ombudsman.
"The executive order cannot be extended outside the executive branch without violating the core principles of independence and checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution," the senator said.
Drilon said that the Supreme Court, in many cases, upheld the constitutional independence of offices such as the Ombudsman and disallowed the President to remove or discipline officials belonging to the constitutional bodies.
Drilon said that Section 5(c) in the EO, which gives the anti-corruption body power to conduct fact-finding inquiries on officials outside of the Executive branch "may be legally challenged" as an infringement on the independence of other branches of government and constitutional bodies.
Section 5(c) states that "upon instructions of the President, or motu proprio, the Commission may also conduct lifestyle checks and fact-finding inquiries on acts or omissions of all presidential appointees, including those outside of the Executive branch of government, which may be violative of the Constitution, or contrary to law, rules and regulations, and/or constitute serious misconduct tantamount to betrayal of public trust."
Citing Gonzales v. Office of the President, Drilon said that constitutional bodies such as the Ombudsman, by virtue of its constitutional independence, may not be removed or disciplined by the President.
Drilon said that "the limitation of the power of the President to discipline the members of these constitutional bodies is to preserve its independence and isolate them from the President’s influence and political pressure."
"What we want to prevent here is a situation wherein constitutional offices would be, in effect, at the mercy of the executive that they are mandated to investigate," Drilon said.
Drilon further said that only the heads of these constitutional bodies can discipline their personnel, while it is the duty of Congress to investigate and prosecute impeachable officials.
Duterte earlier threatened to investigate the Office of the Ombudsman office for alleged rampant extortion activities to dismiss the complaints filed against several individuals after the latter started its investigation on his alleged ill-gotten wealth amounting to multi-billion pesos.
He also threatened to initiate the filing of impeachment complaints against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno in the House of Representatives for their alleged irregularities. (SunStar Philippines)