Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Wednesday said the Office of the Ombudsman should implement Malacañang's suspension of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, or its officials may face sanctions.
This after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said she would not enforce Carandang's 90-day suspension, hitting Malacañang for its administrative case against the official despite jurisprudence invalidating the Executive's administrative jurisdiction over deputy ombudsmen.
"Every official act is accorded the presumption of regularity. Until a competent court declares that such official act is in violation of the law and the Constitution, President Rodrigo Duterte's order of preventive suspension from office of Deputy Ombudsman Carangdang is presumed to be valid and legal," Panelo told ANC.
He added that should the Office of the Ombudsman wish to contest the order, the matter should be brought to court.
"Anyone who disagrees with the suspension are free to question the same before the courts," Panelo said.
He said Morales may face criminal and administrative sanctions if she refuses to implement the order.
"If they want to question the same, then they should go to the higher courts. But in the meanwhile, they must enforce the same. Otherwise, they may open themselves to challenge, because they are precisely going against the very process that they are invoking," Panelo said.
"As far as we are concerned, the act of the President is presumed to be valid and legal unless a competent court says otherwise," he added.
Morales on Wednesday said she would not enforce Malacañang's suspension order against Carandang, saying the Palace's action was a breach of the Ombudsman's independence.
"It has become clear that the act of the Office of the President in taking cognizance of the complaints against the Overall Deputy Ombudsman and ordering his preventive suspension was not an inadvertent error but a clear affront to the Supreme Court and an impairment of the constitutionally enshrined independence of the Office of the Ombudsman," Morales said in a statement.
The Supreme Court had, in 2014, declared unconstitutional a provision in the Ombudsman Act of 1989 granting the Office of the President the power to remove a deputy ombudsman.
But Solicitor General Jose Calida maintained Tuesday that the President has the authority to discipline a deputy ombudsman and vowed that he is ready to defend the Palace's position before the High Court.
“[M]y office is ready to defend the action of the Office of the President in suspending Carandang. We are confident that the Supreme Court will reverse its 2014 ruling,” Calida said.
Malacañang gave Carandang 10 days to answer the administrative cases.