Can the Office of the President suspend deputy ombudsman Carandang?

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Can the Office of the President suspend deputy ombudsman Carandang?

Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang has been placed under preventive suspension after being charged with grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for supposed disclosure of documents about President Rodrigo Duterte's bank accounts. Presidential Photo/Albert Alcain

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Executive Secretary has suspended Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang for 90 days after charging him for grave misconducta and grave dishonesty.

An administrative case has been filed against Carandang for supposedly disclosing documents in connection to President Rodrigo Duterte's bank accounts.

READ: Deputy ombudsman suspended for grave misconduct

The Office of the President, however, appears to have exceeded its authority in suspending Carandang.

In Jan. 28 2014, the Supreme Court, in the case of Gonzales III vs the Office of the President, ruled that Section 8(2) of RA 6770 or The Ombudsman Act of 1989 was unconstitutional by granting discplinary jurisdiction to the president over a deputy ombudsman as it violates the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman.

Section 8(2) of RA 6770 states that "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."

In Sept. 4, 2012, the high court initially upheld the constitutionality of this provision. Two years later, upon the petitions filed by former Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III and Special Prosecutor Wendell Barreras-Sulit, the Supreme Court reversed its decision and declared the provision unconstitutional.

"We declared Section 8(2) of RA No. 6770 unconstitutional by granting disciplinary jurisdiction to the President over a Deputy Ombudsman, in violation of the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman," the 2014 decision read.

"This ruling renders any further ruling on the dismissal of Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III unnecessary, but is without prejudice to the power of the Ombudsman to conduct an administrative investigation, if warranted, into the possible administrative liability of Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III under pertinent Civil Service laws, rules and regulations," it added.

Abigail Valte, deputy spokesperson of former President Benigno Aquino III, described the case of Gonzales as one of the past administration's mistakes.

"One instance where they really should have learned from our mistake: Gonzales v. Office of the President," Valte said on Twitter.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, on the other hand, said that only the ombudsman is impeachable while the deputies are subject to disciplinary actions by the president.

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