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Monday , May 28, 2018

Espinoza: President needs the Ombudsman

CRITICS of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez may accuse him of protecting his own kind when he said he will not implement the order of the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia, but he had a good legal point.

Speaker Alvarez said “there is nothing in the Constitution that allows me to do that.” He even said it is not within the power of the Ombudsman to discipline, much more to remove, any member of the House of Representatives. The dismissal order will not be taken up at the plenary, he added.

The dismissal order order against Garcia and her perpetual disqualification from holding any public office was the result of the administrative case that she was charged with while she was the governor of Cebu. It stemmed from the contract she entered into sometime in April 2012 with Supreme ABF Construction for the backfilling of the controversial Balili property without the authority from the Provincial Board.

The Ombudsman, in its decision dated Jan. 15, 2018, stated that the P50 million allocation for the site development of the Balili property carried under the province’s budget for 2012 was not enough to authorize the contract itself.

Garcia was on her second term as Governor of Cebu when the 24.9 hectares Balili property was purchased in 2008 at the price of P98.926 million. Controversy arose when it was found out that 19.67 hectares of the property was underwater.

The Province bought the property for its housing project and a seaport. But upon investigation, the property was found to be unsuitable for the projects.

This is not the end for the political career of Garcia and she still has available remedies under the law. Her father, former congressman and former governor Pabling is a legal luminary and he knows what to do.

I was seated beside Cebu Gov. Junjun Davide during President Duterte’s inauguration of the Malasakit Center at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Center on Monday. He refused to comment when I asked him about the Ombudsman’s order. He merely said the Ombudsman has spoken “so let’s leave it that way.”

Many already expected Speaker Alvarez not to implement the Ombudsman’s order just like in the case of Rep. Bebot Abellanosa not because the Constitution does not authorize him to but because the House wants to show its muscle.

Meanwhile the Ombudsman, perhaps the most hated constitutional body, demonstrated its authority and independence from the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary in imposing its decisions or orders. In short, the Ombudsman checks the excesses of those in government.

President Duterte was catapulted into office because of his campaign promise to eradicate corruption and stop the proliferation of the illegal drugs. Monday, he reiterated that promise.

In this regard, the President needs the Ombudsman. He should support the said office and give more teeth to his campaign against corrupt officials and employees instead of rocking it.

The threat to impeach the Ombudsman could be seen as being intended to stifle the authority of the Ombudsman to investigate corrupt politicians and officials. Let it do its job no matter how slow it may be.

Come what may, let me greet everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day!


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