“The law is clear. You are supposed to serve the remaining time of the guy who served before you. But this has not been questioned until now.”
-- President Duterte, addressing Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales
ASSAILING the alleged “selective justice” of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales. President Duterte Tuesday (Aug. 29) also sought to cap her on the knee: her alleged absence of the right to stay longer in office.
By Duterte’s count that she could serve only the unexpired term of her predecessor Merceditas Gutierrez, the term of Carpio-Morales should’ve ended last Feb. 1, 2015. Not July 8, 2018, if reckoned for a full seven years.
The law is clear, Duterte said.
Yes, so crystal clear for the Judicial and Bar Council to decide, as it did, last May 2, 2011 that the ombudusman appointed to replace an ombudsman who resigns “shall serve the full term” of seven years.
The JBC “put to rest” the question which was raised as early as 2011, not just last June 29 (when lawyer Nathaniel Hurong petitioned the Supreme Court against Carpio-Morales’s continued service).
An old question already settled by JBC and now resurrected by a lawyer and picked up by the president.
Had both lawyers checked Republic Act 6770, the ombudsman law, they would’ve found section 8, paragraph three. It says the over-all deputy (ombudsman) “shall serve as acting ombudsman, until a new ombudsman shall be appointed for a full term.” And the full term under the Constitution for the ombudsman and his or her deputies is seven years.
Nothing about the new ombudsman serving only the unexpired part of the term of the predecessor.
By this time, the presidential legal counsel will have already re-read the law and some JBC members, including Sen. Francis Escudero, will have recalled how it settled the issue six years ago.
Now some cloud of doubt hangs over Ombudsman Carpio-Morales after the president no less publicly doubted her right to the office and authority to decide. Unnecessary and wrong, which could’ve been avoided by checking the law and JBC’s position on the issue.
The charge that Carpio-Morales is doing “selective justice” is another matter although that could be the motive for the assault on her term.
Perhaps the ombudsman’s office and the office of the president can separately audit the cases and find solid basis for the charge. As it is, it’s an un-documented blast against an ombudsman who could be doing the right thing before her term ends next year.
Come to think of it, three major constitutional institutions being attacked, deservedly or not, by going after their leaders: the ombudsman, the Supreme Court chief justice, and the Comelec chairman. Something is going on.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on August 31, 2017.
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