Malacañang confident of ruling reversal on President's power over Ombudsman execs

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is confident that the Supreme Court (SC) will reverse a 2014 ruling that declared as unconstitutional the jurisdiction of the Office of the President over the Office of the Ombudsman.

The statement was in defense of the Palace decision to suspend for 90 days Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang, a move slammed as a violation of the 1987 Constitution. (READ: Did Carandang commit breaches, and can the President remove him?)

"OP (Office of the President) wants to revisit that ruling...OP [is] confident it can reverse anew," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a message to reporters on Monday, January 29.

"Yes, [we are] confident Gonzales [ruling] can be overturned," he added, noting that it was a split decision among SC justices.

The 2014 ruling on the case of Emilio Gonzales III versus the Office of the President declared that it is unconstitutional for the President to have jurisdiction over the Office of the Ombudsman.

Gonzales was a deputy ombudsman under the administration of Benigno Aquino III who was ordered dismissed after being charged by the Office of the President with gross neglect of duty and misconduct.

But the SC reversed Gonzales' dismissal and said the provision in the Ombudsman Act of 1989 granting the President powers to discipline officials of the Office of the Ombudsman is a violation of the Constitution.

"We declare Section 8 (2) of RA No. 6770 unconstitutional by granting disciplinary jurisdiction to the President over a Deputy Ombudsman in violation of the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman," reads the 2014 ruling.

Roque, himself a lawyer, was reminded of this ruling but did not give a clear response.

To questions whether Malacañang's move was constitutional, given the 2014 ruling, Roque could only insist that the deputy ombudsman is not impeachable. He also cited a different SC ruling.

"Only the Ombudsman is impeachable. There's also the case of the special prosecutor which was reversed, yes, by the CA (Court of Appeals) but on the finding of fact that there was not enough basis to charge her but the authority of the Office of the President has been recognized," he had said.

The decision on Special Prosecutor Wendell Barreras-Sulit was also released with the decision on Gonzales.

The SC did not reverse Malacañang's dismissal of Sulit as it affirmed that the President has jurisdiction over the Office of the Special Prosecutor, but not over the deputy ombudsman. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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