Ombud frowns at Aguinaldo Doctrine-A A +A
Thursday, February 7, 2013
“SANA walang Aguinaldo Doctrine (I wish the Aguinaldo Doctrine did not exist).”
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol yesterday expressed his disappointment with the 1992 Supreme Court (SC) jurisprudence, which he said condones the “sins” of reelected public officials.
“It limits the power of the Ombudsman to prosecute erring elective officials,” Apostol told Sun.Star Cebu.
Apostol said he has lost count of the number of public officials who were found administratively liable but escaped penalty due to the doctrine.
In resolving the case of then Cagayan Gov. Rodolfo Aguinaldo versus then Local Government Secretary Luis Santos, the High Court held that the administrative liability of elected officials becomes moot upon their reelection.
“This is because reelection operates as a condonation by the electorate of the misconduct committed by an elective official during his previous term,” the SC explained, this time in the 1999 Cebu case of Garcia versus Mojica.
The doctrine, however, does not apply to criminal cases.
In the case of then San Jose Mayor Arturo Pascual versus the Provincial Board of Nueva Ecija, the SC ruled: “When the people have elected a man to office, it must be assumed that they did this with knowledge of his life and character, and that they disregarded or forgave his faults or misconduct, if he had been guilty of any.”
“It is not for the court, by reason of such faults or misconduct to practically overrule the will of the people,” the SC stated.
Cebu officials who have benefited from the Aguinaldo Doctrine are suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, former mayor and now Lapu-Lapu City Rep. Arturo Radaza, and former Mandaue City mayor and now Provincial Board (PB) Member Thadeo Ouano.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales recently found Garcia and five other Capitol officials guilty of grave misconduct relative to the Balili lot purchase in 2008.
Morales dismissed from the service former provincial assessor Anthony Sususco (who retired last year), former provincial treasurer Roy Salubre (now acting provincial assessor), Provincial Engineer Eulogio Pelayre and former provincial Budget Officer Emme Gingoyon. (They have the option to seek a reconsideration.)
Garcia was spared from administrative liability since her reelection in 2010 mooted the penalty under the doctrine.
Likewise, the penalty imposed on former Board Member Juan Bolo, who broached the idea of buying the Balili lot to Garcia, is also rendered moot since he is no longer working in the government.
In another case, Lapu-Lapu City businessman Efrain Pelaez Jr. of the Coralpoint Educational Foundation lodged a complaint over a 2005 transaction against Radaza on Sept. 19, 2007, four months after the then mayor was reelected.
In Ouano’s case, on Oct. 1, 2010, the ombudsman dismissed the administrative case against him in connection with the allegedly overpriced purchase of lampposts.
Ouano’s election to the PB in the 2010 polls served as “condonation of his previous msiconduct,” making the case “moot and academic," the antigraft office said.
Ouano was the Mandaue City mayor when the lampposts were purchased in 2007.
Apostol said the ombudsman’s hands are tied by the jurisprudence.
“Somebody should raise that (objection) before the court. It is not for the ombudsman to do that. We must possess the cold neutrality of a judge,” he said.
He added that voters have the option to "punish" corrupt public officials by voting for somebody else.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 07, 2013.