Deputy Ombudsman fired over hostage crisis

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 01 2011 11:59 AM | Updated as of Apr 02 2011 11:00 AM

MANILA - (1st UPDATE) - Malacañan has made an example of the accountability it could exact from the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a press briefing, Presidential Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang announced that the Office of the President (OP) has  fired deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III over the case of police officer Rolando Mendoza, the hostage-taker in the August 2010 Manila hostage incident.

Carandang said the decision was signed yesterday (March 31) by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr.. It cited Gonzalez for alleged gross neglect of duty and gross misconduct in handling the dismissal-complaint against Mendoza.

This is the first time that the Aquino administration has taken a direct action on an official in connection with the hostage taking.

In a separate statement, Ochoa said, “This decision reflects the administration’s commitment to hold those responsible for the hostage-taking incident accountable. Those of us who serve government must be cognizant of the fact that people are affected by our failure to fulfill our responsibilities. In this case lives were not only affected, they were lost.”

In its 15-page decision the OP found an inordinate and unjustified delay in the resolution of the motion for reconsideration Mendoza filed regarding his dismissal from the police service—a clear neglect of the performance of official duty.

It also said that the delay in the resolution of Mendoza’s appeal that spanned 9 months constituted a flagrant disregard of the Office of the Ombudsman’s Rules and Procedure.

The OP also said there was substantial evidence to prove that Gonzalez committed gross misconduct for showing undue interest in taking over. The delay was also unjustified since there was no opposition to Mendoza’s appeal.

Ochoa added: “The circumstances surrounding the charges of gross neglect of duty and gross misconduct lent credence to Mendoza’s accusation during the hostage incident that Gonzalez was extorting P150,000 from him in exchange for a favorable decision."

Gonzalez had challenged the authority of the OP to handle his case, which Ochoa rebutted by citing the Constitution and the Ombudsman Act, which gave the President the power to discipline officers of the Ombudsman.

Ochoa said Gonzalez’ actions amounted to betrayal of public trust and arbitrary and tyrannical exercise of authority, which are grounds for dismissal from service by the President.

Carandang said there are no indications yet as to who will be Gonzalez’ replacement.

The decision comes amid the  impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez for alleged incompetence in various cases.

Aside from Gonzalez, other officers of the Ombudsman, like Special Prosecutor Wendell Barreras-Sulit, are facing dismissal proceedings at the Office of the President for another case--the plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

Carandang said the House Justice Committee report on the Garcia plea bargain, which recommended the dismissal of the prosecutors in the Garcia plea bargain, has been treated as a complaint. Sulit has herself been given a show cause memo.