De Lima to Palace: Deal with Ombudsman defiance severely

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 04 2011 01:32 PM | Updated as of Apr 04 2011 09:32 PM

'Defiance by Ombudsman does not sit well for constitutional body'

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has made it clear that it does not honor a decision from the Office of the President dated March 31, 2010 dismissing Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III in connection with the August 23, 2010 Quirino Grandstand hostage-taking incident.

The Ombudsman claims it had already cleared Gonzalez in an internal proceeding by its Internal Affairs Board, and insisted that only the anti-graft office has jurisdiction over "all appointive officials of the Government except over officials who may be removed only by impeachment, or over members of Congress and the Judiciary."

In an interview with reporters today (April 4), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima maintained the Office of the President has the power to dismiss a deputy Ombudsman by virtue of Section 8, item 2 of the Ombudsman Act of 1989, to wit: "(2) A Deputy or the Special Prosecutor, may be removed from office by the President for any of the grounds provided for the removal of the Ombudsman, and after due process."

"I don't think they can defy that. I mean, a constitutional body like the Office of the Ombudsman must be the first really to respect lawful orders from other authorities. It is very clear that (Office of the President) has the power to dismiss a deputy ombudsman and the special prosecutors on the same grounds as impeachment... that is very clear, that is beyond dispute," de Lima said.

The Office of the President acted on a recommendation by the August 23 Incident Investigation and Review Committee(IIRC) headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima "for further determination of possible administrative offenses... and for the initiation of the proper administrative proceedings" in relation to a perceived inaction on a motion for reconsideration of hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza involving a case for alleged robbery (extortion), grave threats and physical injuries amounting to grave misconduct where he was found liable and ordered dismissed from police service by the Ombudsman. The case was handled by Gonzalez.

The IIRC said Gonzalez "committed complete and wanton violation of the Ombudsman prescribed rule to resolve motions for reconsideration in administrative disciplinary cases within five (5) days from submission by allowing Mendoza's motion for reconsideration to languish for nine (9) long months without any justification." 

'Defiance should be dealth with severely'

The justice chief said the Ombudsman's defiance should not be taken lightly and must be dealt with accordingly when the President's order shall become final and executory.

"Defiance should really be dealt with severely by the Office of the President. Hihintayin lang siguro maging final and executory. I think the deputy Ombudsman still has the right to file a motion for reconsideration within a particular period," de Lima said.

"If he does not do that, then it becomes final and executory and he ought to be dismissed, and I dont think defiance will sit well in that office, it is a constitutional body," she added.

De Lima also said the jurisdiction of the Office of the President takes precedence over the ruling of the Ombudsman's Internal Affairs Board clearing Gonzalez.

"It does not matter, even if really he was cleared by that internal committee, iba naman yung jurisdiction ng Office of the President. And this one is a statutory power given to the president, so irrespective of the action, irrespective of the decision of that internal committee of the Ombudsman, the decision of the Office of the President stands because it has statutory basis so it can be executed and it should be executed once it becomes final," she said.

Due process requirement satisfied

De Lima insisted Gonzalez was accorded due process and given the opportunity by Malacañan to present his defense before the proceedings.

"Nagkaroon talaga ng proceedings with the Office of the President, in fact, the deputy Ombudsman submitted his answer. Therefore, nire-recognize niya yung jurisdiction ng Office of the President. But when clarificatory hearing proceedings was set, he was a no-show," she said.