SC orders sacked Deputy Ombudsman reinstated

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2012 10:07 PM | Updated as of Sep 26 2012 04:17 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the reinstatement of former Ombudsman Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III, who was sacked by Malacañan in connection with the bloody Aug 23, 2010 Quirino Grandstand hostage taking incident.

In a 50-page decision by the court en banc penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, dated Sept. 4, but released only on Tuesday, the high court also directed the payment of back wages in favor of Gonzalez.

"In the instant case, while the evidence may show some amount of wrongdoing on the part of petitioner, the Court seriously doubts the correctness of the OP's (Office of the President) conclusion that the imputed acts amount to gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct constitutive of betrayal of public trust," the decision read.

The ruling also pointed out that a more thorough study and discussions should be made to determine on whether every negligent act or misconduct in the performance of a Deputy Ombudsman's duties constitute betrayal of public trust warranting immediate removal from office.

The Office of the President ordered Gonzalez's dismissal on findings of gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct in office amounting to a betrayal of public trust, a constitutional ground for the removal by impeachment of the Ombudsman, for "unexplained action in directing the PNP-NCR to elevate P/S Insp. Mendoza's (hostage-taking cop) case records to his office; his pronouncement of administrative liability and imposition of the extreme penalty of dismissal on P/S Insp. Mendoza based upon an unverified complaint-affidavit; his inordinate haste in implementing P/S Insp. Mendoza's dismissal ;  and his apparent unconcern that the pendency of the motion for reconsideration for more than five months had deprived P/S Insp. Mendoza of available remedies against the immediate implementation of the Decision dismissing him from the service," among others.

"Even if there was inordinate delay in the resolution of P/S Insp. Mendoza's motion and an unexplained failure on petitioner's part to supervise his subordinates in its prompt disposition, the same cannot be considered a vicious and malevolent act warranting his removal for betrayal of public trust. More so because the neglect imputed upon petitioner appears to be an isolated case," the high court said.

Meantime, the same decision also touched on the suspension and administrative proceedings against Ombudsman Special Prosecutor Wendell Barreras-Sulit who faces charges before the OP in connection with the Carlos Garcia plea bargaining deal.

The high court affirmed the continuation of proceedings against Barreras-Sulit on alleged acts and omissions tantamount to culpable violation o f the Constitution and a betrayal of public trust, in accordance with Section 8(2) of the Ombudsman Act.

As to the constitutionality of Sec. 8 (2) of the Ombusman Act, which gives the President the power to dismiss a Deputy Ombudsman of the Office of the Ombudsman, the vote was split at 7-7, which affirms the constitutionality of the said provision.