Monday, July 11, 2016

Morales laments SC ruling ‘undermining’ Ombudsman’s power | News | GMA News Online

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Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Monday night took the opportunity to express her dismay over a recent Supreme Court (SC) ruling, which supposedly “stymies” her office’s investigative power against corrupt government officials.

In a speech at the commencement exercises of the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Law, Morales said the SC ruling had a wide impact on the Ombudsman’s power of investigating government officials without any court interference.

“The mandate of the Office became all the more challenging in light of the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Morales versus Court of Appeals and Binay, where it declared on the ineffectiveness and unconstitutionality of the first and second paragraphs, respectively of Section 14 of the Ombudsman Act,” Morales said before the university’s new Law graduates.

Morales was referring to the SC decision released last April, upholding its November 2015 ruling allowing the Court of Appeals (CA) to hear and act on investigation findings by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The SC denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Morales’ office and instead ruled to strike down for being “vague” Paragraphs 1 and 2, Section 14 of Republic Act 6770 or the Office of the Ombudsman Charter Act.

'Spate of TROs'

The case stemmed from a petition filed by the Ombudsman challenging the CA's authority in issuing a temporary restraining in June 2015 that stopped the preventive suspension of then Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay Jr. over alleged overpricing in the construction of the Makati City Hall Building II.

“As a result, we now see a spate of temporary restraining orders or TROs and injunctions being issued by the appellate court against our administrative investigations and findings,” Morales lamented.

“This effectively stymied the policy of limiting judicial interference in the conduct of Ombudsman investigations, thus further undermining the role of the Office as protector of the people,” she added.

Binay was eventually ordered dismissed from office in October 2015 and is currently facing graft charges before the Sandiganbayan still in connection with the Makati parking anomaly.

Under Section 14 Paragraph 1 of RA 6770, “no writ of injunction shall be issued by any court to delay an investigation being conducted by the Ombudsman under this Act, unless there is a prima facie evidence that the subject matter of the investigation is outside the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman.”

Section 14 Paragraph 2 of RA 6770 states that “no court shall hear any appeal or application for remedy against the decision or findings of the Ombudsman, except the Supreme Court, on pure question of law”.

Morales said that despite of the nullification of these two significant provisions of the Ombudsman Act, her office will double its efforts to resolve corruption complaints against government officials, saying that she intends to achieve a zero-complaint backlog by the end of her term in 2018.

Morales boasted that from 19,814 criminal and administrative complaints when she assumed office at the Ombudsman in 2011, the number had been cut down to 7,328 by the end of 2015.

“There is, of course, still room for improvement, as we aim to further reduce our pending caseload by one-half this year as well as target a zero-backlog docket in 2018 when by term expires,” Morales said.

Morales, meanwhile, maintained that the Ombudsman’s investigation and rulings are always based on evidence and not on any political biases.

“Moreover, in addition to the pending cases and other anti-corruption programs, the Office contends with undeserved accusations of partiality and selectiveness against members of the opposition. The Office is not perturbed, however,” Morales said.

“Such accusations are par for the course. It bears emphasis that we only adjudicate on the basis of evidence presented before us,” she added. —ALG, GMA News

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