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A constitutional crisis

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal of Senator Joel Villanueva from government service and the filing of criminal charges against him. This is for the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds worth P10 million when he was party-list congressman in 2008. Despite this, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and the entire Senate have refused to abide by the order. Thus, a constitutional crisis already exists.

Despite the fact that Pimentel was directed to implement the directive imposed as an administrative penalty against Villanueva, who was found guilty of grave misconduct,serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service, the Senate has chosen to disregard the Ombudsman’s order. He argues that Villanueva’s motion for reconsideration has not yet been decided.

Based on the rules of the Office of the Ombudsman, a pending appeal or motion for reconsideration cannot stop the implementation of the anti-graft agency’s decision.

Comes now the Senate arguing that the Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction, under the Constitution, to dismiss Villanueva, and that the fundamental law provides that only Congress has the power over its members. In short, the Senate argues that the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over Congress and the Judiciary.

Section 27 of Republic Act 6770, or the Ombudsman Law states that “all provisionary orders of the Office of the Ombudsman are immediately effective and executory, and Rule III of the anti-graft agency Rule of Procedure provides that while decisions can be appealed, motions for reconsideration cannot stop implementation.

The same Rules of Procedure are specific that “... the refusal or failure by an officer without just cause to comply with an order of the Office of the Ombudsman to remove, suspend, demote, fine or censure shall be ground for disciplinary action against said officer.”

Here’s the kicker. Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto said that under Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1988, the Ombudsman’s disciplinary powers do not extend to members of Congress and the Judiciary. Senate President Pro Tempore Frank Drilon agreed with Sotto in his interpretation of the Ombudsman role, citing the Constitution where its states that Congress is given the power to discipline and expel its members.

On the part of Villanueva, he continues to maintain his innocence and claims that his name was forged. I distinctly recall that when then-Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, now Villanueva’s fellow senator, filed the case against him for misusing his Priority Development Assistance Fund, Villanueva vowed that he would not be seen on the same stage with De Lima. It was an empty boast—both were Liberal Party senatorial candidates and were often seen together during the campaign.

Just how this controversy will end is a matter of speculation. But, it’s easy to predict that only the Supreme Court can settle it. Abangan.

* * *

When President Duterte said he believed the account of the members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that Albuera, Leyte Mayor Roland Espinosa Sr. was killed in a shootout inside his prison cell, he effectively emboldened members of the police force to do their worst in the war against illegal drugs.

I say this because events and circumstance showed that the killing was “premeditated” and followed a “bad script” as found during a Senate investigation.

Santa Banana, why would Scene of the Crime Operatives be called to Espinosa’s prison cell before the killing itself if the crime were not premeditated? And I saw during the Senate inquiry that the CIDG members were overconfident about their account. Perhaps they knew that the President was behind them.

* * *

And now we have the President defending Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa over the issue that he violated the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees when he accepted from pugilist-senator Manny Pacquiao an all-expense paid trip (with allowance for shopping and entertainment), with his family, to Las Vegas.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the probe of De La Rosa. The law prohibits public servants from accepting, directly or indirectly, a gift from a person other than a member of his family or relatives even on the occasion of a family celebration or national festivity“if the value is neither nominal or insignificant, or the gift is given in anticipation of, or in exchange for a favor.” Clearly, that gift given by Pacquiao to Bato was not nominal nor insignificant.

I said this would be a test case. We have a law but it has not been implemented. I have written that the Ombudsman has enough to go on against Dela Rosa.

Why doesn’t the President just allow the Ombudsman to do her job since that is her business? Dela Rosa and Pacquiao may be ignorant of the law, but that’s no excuse.

If President Duterte keeps on doing these things, his credibility will not only be eroded. He would be promoting the culture of lawlessness and impunity.

* * *

When President Duterte appointed a new finance secretary in the person of Sonny Dominguez, a reputable businessman from Davao, I had hoped that he would take a look at the tragedy of some 900 Bureau of Customs employees assigned to the Naia. They have not been paid their overtime, transport and meal allowances when they rendered service to airlines beyond the mandated eight-hour.

I had hoped that Dominguez would be different from former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima who didn’t give a damn about a fair and equitable treatment of the 900 workers.

It now appears I am mistaken. Dominguez also has not lifted a finger on the matter.

Topics: Emil Jurado , A constitutional crisis , Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales , Senator Joel Villanueva , pork barrel funds , Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa , Sonny Dominguez
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