For continuing to serve in a position that has expired close to five years ago, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales must be directed to vacate her post, according to former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol III.
Vitangcol, in a petition filed before the Supreme Court (SC), urged the high court to order the country's top graft buster to cease and desist from further carrying out the functions of her office, and declare the post vacant.
Vitangcol argued that Morales' term expired on November 30, 2012 because she is supposed to serve only the remainder of the seven-year term of resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who stepped down on May 6, 2011.
Vitangcol urged the high court to declare Section 8 (3) of Republic Act (RA) No. 6770, also known as the Ombudsman Act of 1989, as unconstitutional for being in conflict with the legislative intent that a new appointee to an uncompleted term must only serve the remainder or the unexpired term.
The assailed provision assures a seven-year term for each appointed Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman.
Vitangcol also asked the high court to declare null and void Morales' orders from December 1, 2012 up to the present.
"The term of office of the appointed Ombudsman, in case of vacancy, in Section 8, paragraph(3) of R.A. No. 6770 can be seen in the exchange of discussions between Congressmen Tito Espinosa, Antonio Abaya, Raul Roco, and Isidro Zarraga (Committee on Justice Chairman). Interestingly, the sponsor of the bill, Congressman Abaya, intended that the new appointee shall serve only the unexpired term of his predecessor," Vitangcol's petition read.
Vitangcol was slapped with graft charges before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly attempting to extort $ 30-million from a Czech company that supplies light rail vehicles while he was still MRT-3 GM. His indictment was approved by Morales.
In June, lawyer Rey Nathaniel Ifurung also asked the high court to declare vacant all top positions at the Office of the Ombudsman, including that of Ombudsman, for alleged overstaying of the incumbent officials.
Ifurung argued the framers of the 1987 Constitution had the "clear intent" of applying the status and limitations they set on the three other constitutional commissions namely, Civil Service Commission (CSC), Commission on Elections (Comelec), and Commission on Audit (CoA) on the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Constitution specifically provides that appointment to any vacancy at the CSC, Comelec, and CoA "shall be only for the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor," Ifurung said.
However, Morales has insisted any fresh appointee to the Ombudsman post must serve a full seven-year term.
"We are following the law. The Ombudsman Act of 1989, Section 8 paragraph number 3, says that when the incumbent Ombudsman leaves the office by reason of death or removal, resignation or permanent disability, the Deputy Ombudsman shall be the acting ombudsman until a new Ombudsman is appointed who shall serve for a full term," Morales said in an interview in August.