MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte's new anti-corruption commission has no power to discipline government officials and employees in constitutional bodies and other agencies outside the executive branch, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Friday.
In a statement, Drilon said the scope of Duterte's Executive Order (EO) No. 43 creating the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission may breach checks and balances and violate the independence of agencies outside the executive branch.
“We laud the intention of Executive Order No. 43 if it is really to assist the President in investigating and/or hearing administrative cases primarily involving graft and or corruption against all presidential appointees in the executive branch,” Drilon said.
“However, the executive order cannot be extended outside the executive branch without violating the core principles of independence and checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution,” Drilon said.
Duterte had recently signed the EO creating the commission under his office, empowered to investigate administrative charges against his appointees, including those in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
The commission was created a week after Duterte vowed to form a body that would investigate alleged corruption at the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent agency primarily tasked to investigate corruption allegations against public officials.
Drilon, however, stressed that the EO cannot be used to discipline or recommend actions against members of the Office of the Ombudsman, Congress, the judiciary, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Elections, and Commission on Audit, among others.
“The limitation of the power of the President to discipline members of these constitutional bodies is to preserve its independence and isolate them from the President’s influence and political pressure,” Drilon said.
“What we want to prevent here is a situation wherein constitutional offices would be, in effect, under the mercy of the executive that they are mandated to investigate,” he added.
The senator said only heads of such constitutional bodies can discipline their personnel, while investigation and prosecution of impeachable officials are within the responsibilities of Congress.
Drilon was referring to a provision in the EO that states that “upon instructions of the President, or motu proprio, the Commission may also conduct lifestyle checks and fact-finding inquiries on acts or omissions of all presidential appointees, including those outside of the Executive Branch of government, which may be violative of the Constitution, or contrary to law, rules and regulations, and/or constitute serious misconduct tantamount to betrayal of public trust.”
The senator noted how the Supreme Court, in many cases, upheld the constitutional independence of agencies such as the Office of the Ombudsman and disallowed the President to remove or discipline officials belonging to the constitutional bodies.