Ombudsman urged to assert independence

A LAWMAKER on Tuesday, January 30, urged the Ombudsman to uphold and assert its status as an independent constitutional body.

ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, in a statement, said the Ombudsman should defend itself from another attempt of President Rodrigo Duterte to weaken the institutional checks on graft, corruption, and abuse of power in government.

Tinio issued the statement a day after the Office of the President announced that it has charged Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang and placed him under suspension for 90 days.

Carandang, who leads the investigation into Duterte's alleged hidden wealth, was charged with grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for his unauthorized dislosure of the Duterte family's supposed bank transactions.

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin said the President does not have the power to discipline Carandang.

"The Deputy Ombudsman is not under the supervision of the President so hindi dapat nila ginawa yun (they should not have done that)," Villarin said in a press conference Tuesday.

Villarin cited a Supreme Court jurisprudence decided during the term of then President Benigno Aquino III which states that the President cannot suspend a deputy ombudsman as the said act delimits the latter's power.

In the decision of the SC dated January 28, 2014, it declared as unconstitutional and in violation of the Ombudsman's independence under Section 8 (2) of the Ombudsman Act (Republic Act 6770), which states that “a Deputy or the Special Prosecutor may be removed from office by the President for any of the grounds provided for the removal of the Ombudsman and after due process."

The SC decision stemmed from the petition filed by Deputy Ombudsman for Military and Other Law Enforcement Officers Emilio Gonzales III.

Gonzales, who was dismissed at that time for allegedly delaying the resolution of the case against the hostage taker in the Manila hostage crisis in August 2010, was reinstated following the promulgation of the said decision

Carandang's principal, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, has yet to issue a statement regarding the issue.

Villarin said that the suspension of Carandang shows the hypocrisy of the administration which is conducting an anti-corruption drive.

Carandang has been under attack by no less than the President after announcing last September that the Ombudsman has in its possession the bank transactions of the first family in relation to its investigation stemming from the complaint filed by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on the alleged unexplained wealth of the Duterte family.

The documents, he said, came from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which has denied releasing such documents. (SunStar Philippines)

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