MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales will not enforce the 90-day preventive suspension order issued by Malacañang against Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, January 31, Morales cited the 2014 ruling by the Supreme Court (SC) declaring unconstitutional Section 8 (2) of Republic Act (RA) No. 6770 or the Ombudsman law, which previously gave the President the power to discipline the Deputy Ombudsmen.
"The Ombudsman cannot, therefore, seriously place at risk the independence of the very Office which she has pledged to protect on the strength of the constitutional guarantees which the High Court has upheld," Morales said.
The 2014 ruling promulgated January 28 that year became final and executory on May 7 the same year, according to SC records.
This is SC's entry of judgment from May 2014 declaring as final and executory the ruling that removed from the President the power to discipline a Deputy @OmbudsmanPh pic.twitter.com/8QxUIKSaNB — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) January 31, 2018
"Like any government official, the Ombudsman has sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land. The Ombudsman will thus not allow herself to betray her sworn duty to uphold the Constitution by recognizing what is patently unconstitutional as ordained by the Supreme Court en banc in Gonzales III v. Office of the President (G.R. No. 196231, 28 January 2014)," Morales said.
After months of silence, Morales once again hit back at President Rodrigo Duterte.
"It has become clear that the act of the Office of the President in taking cognizance of the complaints against the Overall Deputy Ombudsman and ordering his preventive suspension was not an inadvertent error but a clear affront to the Supreme Court and an impairment of the constitutionally enshrined independence of the Office of the Ombudsman," Morales said.
She added, "In a society founded on the rule of law, the arbitrary disregard of a clearly worded jurisprudence coupled with a confident stance that it will be changed should never be countenanced."
Carandang was suspended for alleged illegal disclosure of bank details of the President and the first family. He leads the Ombudsman's investigation into Duterte's alleged ill-gotten wealth.
Legal experts said Carandang or the Office of the Ombudsman could challenge the order before the SC, but that would open the door to a reversal of the ruling. The ruling before was 8-7.
Of the 8 votes, only Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, and Marvic Leonen are sitting justices.
Of the 7 dissenting votes, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe remain in the SC.
It is unclear at this point if Morales is taking the matter to the SC or if she's simply holding her ground in refusing to enforce the order.
In response, Malacañang said it will first wait for Carandang's written reply to the order before taking further action. Carandang has 10 days to reply.