Palace suspends overall deputy ombudsman who investigated Duterte's wealth; suspension virtually against jurisprudence
Malacanang has ordered the 90-day suspension of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur H. Carandang and administratively charged him for allegedly disclosing false information on President Rodrigo Duterte's and his family's alleged hidden wealth.
Carandang's suspension apparently was contrary to existing jurisprudence that the deputy ombudsman could not be subjected to discipline and removal by the president as this could seriously place at risk the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman.
"(T)he Office of the Executive Secretary placed under preventive suspension Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur H. Carandang for a period of 90 days effective immediately upon receipt of this order," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing on Monday.
Later in the day, a statement from Roque said Carandang "is free to seek legal remedy regarding the resolution and order of the Office of Executive Secretary before a competent court. "
Roque added that the OES (Office of the Executive Secretary) stands by its decision to formally charge... Carandang, pursuant to the President's broad powers to discipline all non-impeachable presidential appointees."
The suspension stemmed from the administrative complaint filed in October last year by lawyers Manolito Luna and Eligio Mallari before the Office of the Executive Secretary against Carandang and other officials of the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly violating Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law .
Specifically, Carandang allegedly was "guilty of graft and corruption" under Section 3(e), (k) of RA 3019 for divulging valuable information of a confidential character, referring to the alleged records of the bank transactions of the President from the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
They also accused Carandang of betrayal of public trust for "falsely and maliciously claiming that the AMLC had issued a report regarding the alleged bank transactions of Duterte and for disclosing it in a media interview on September 27 last year.
The ALMC has denied issuing any record of Duterte's bank transactions to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Duterte's supposed bank transactions were used by opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV in filing the complaint against Duterte and some members of his family for allegedly amassing ill gotten wealth before the Ombudsman.
During the press briefing, Roque cited "Emilio A. Gonzales III versus Office of the President G. R. no. 196231, 4 September 2012 recognizes that Deputy Ombudsmen are subject to removal by the President."
However, a 2014 Supreme Court decision reversed its 2012 ruling.
"In the voting held on January 28, 2014, by a vote of 8-7,108 the Court resolved to reverse its September 4, 2012 Decision insofar as petitioner Gonzales is concerned (G.R. No. 196231). 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 SC said in the decision penned by former Associate Justice Arturo Brion.
With the formal filing of administrative charges before the Office of the President, Carandang was directed to file his answer within 10 days from receipt. Celerina Monte/DMS