End Palace power over deputy ombudsman, special prosecutor, SC urged

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Friday, March 28, 2014

A PETITION was filed with the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to end the power of the President to remove a Deputy Ombudsman and Special Prosecutor, who are under the supervision of the independent Office of the Ombudsman.

Former Iloilo Representative Augusto Syjuco Jr. asked the SC to declare Section 8(2) of the Ombudsman Act of 1989 (Republic Act 6770) as unconstitutional, saying the anti-graft body needs to be protected from the pressures, interventions, or vindictive acts of partisan politics.

He said ranking officials of the Ombudsman cannot be beholden to or fearful of anyone, the President included, as part of their mandate to investigate and discipline all elective and appointive government officials.

"To say that the Deputy Ombudsman and the Special Prosecutor will remain independent of the President notwithstanding that he can investigate and remove them from office at any time is the equivalent of saying that monkeys grow out of trees. If there is anyone that the holder of public office fears, it is that person who has the power to remove him," the petition read.

Syjuco, who is facing graft and malversation cases at the Sandiganbayan, said the provision will only encourage the Deputy Ombudsman and the Special Prosecutor to defy the orders of the Ombudsman since they are subject to investigation and removal only by the President.

"The patent anomaly would be that it is the President that they have to please and obey. Surely, that is not what the Constitution contemplates on the ‘independent’ Office of the Ombudsman," stated the petition which named Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales as respondents.

But this issue had already been resolved by the SC last January as it limited the President's disciplinary power to the Special Prosecutor.

The decision stemmed from the petitions filed by then Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices Emilio Gonzales III and former Special Prosecutor Wendell Sulit, who were removed by Malacañang in 2011 for alleged infractions.

Gonzales was found guilty of gross neglect for sitting on the case and asking for bribe money from a policeman involved in the bloody Manila hostage-taking in August 2010 while Sulit was kicked out when she allowed her office to enter into a plea bargaining agreement with suspected plunderer retired Major General Carlos Garcia.

Both challenged the constitutionality of Section 8(2) of RA 6770. (Sunnex)

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