Ombudsman defiant, won't fire deputy


Posted at Apr 01 2011 04:23 PM | Updated as of Apr 02 2011 08:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman on Friday said it will not implement a Malacañang order dismissing Deputy Ombudsman Emilio A. Gonzalez III.

In a press conference, Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus questioned Malacañang's authority to sack Gonzalez since the Ombudsman's Internal Affairs Board had already cleared him of any offense.

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez further noted that the Ombudsman is independent from any other office of government as shown in Sec. 4, Art. XI, 1987 Constitution and Section 21 of Republic Act 6770.

The section reads: "The Office of the Ombudsman shall have disciplinary authority over all elective and appointive officials of the Government and its subdivisions, instrumentalities and agencies, including Members of the Cabinet, local government, government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries, except over officials who may be removed only by impeachment or over Members of Congress, and the Judiciary."

Gutierrez added: "In view of the foregoing, this Office has considered the matter of DO Gonzales’ culpability in the hijacking episode as legally final and closed."

Deputy Ombudsman sacked

The Office of the President (OP) announced on Friday morning that it has dismissed Gonzalez over the case of police officer Rolando Mendoza, the hostage-taker in the August 23, 2010 Manila hostage incident.

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 that left 8 Hong Kong tourists dead.

Click here for ABS-CBN News coverage of the Manila hostage taking crisis

In a statement, Executive Secretary 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 gives 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. --with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News