Belgica files disbarment case vs Ombudsman Morales

Lian Buan

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Belgica files disbarment case vs Ombudsman Morales
(UPDATED) Lawyer Oscar Franklin Tan points out, however, that the Ombudsman may only be disbarred after impeachment and conviction, as the Constitution allows removal of the Ombudsman from office only through impeachment

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former Manila city councilor Greco Belgica filed before the Supreme Court (SC) a disbarment case against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who is set to retire in 2018. 

In the complaint he submitted to the High Court on Friday, March 24, Belgica said Morales violated the lawyers’ code when she dismissed all criminal and administrative complaints against former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Of the complaints for graft, malversation, usurpation of legislative power, and administrative liabilities, Morales indicted former budget secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad only for usurpation of legislative power and cleared Aquino of all faults.

motion for reconsideration has already been filed with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Belgica said Morales violated provisions of the Canon of Professional Responsibility in her resolution of the DAP cases.

Morales said she is yet to read the complaint. “Anyway, everyone is at liberty to file a complaint. Being charged is part of the territory. I am ready to meet head-on any complaint, anytime, anywhere. Wish them luck,” Morales said in a statement.

Violations of lawyers’ code

Belgica cited alleged violations in the lawyers’ code, the first one being:

Rule 6.01 – The primary duty of a lawyer engaged in public prosecution is not to convict but to see that justice is done. The suppression of facts or the concealment of witnesses capable of establishing the innocence of the accused is highly reprehensible and is cause for disciplinary action.

“By absolving the former President of the crime of usurpation of legislative powers without stating the reason, the Ombudsman only gave more weight to the people’s suspicion that she is biased. Worse, she violated her lawyer’s oath when she failed to support the Constitution by depriving the right of the people to due proess of law,” Belgica said.

The Ombudsman resolution explained that Abad was the only one indicted for the crime because he was the signatory on the National Budget Circular (NBC) No. 541, the very document which made DAP possible. The circular directed the withdrawal of unobligated allotments.

Belgica said that Aquino should also be made liable for the circular because a provision there states that it bore the approval of the president.

“She failed to perform her primary duty as a lawyer engaged in the public prosecution because she did not see to it that justice is done to the detriment of the Filipino people,” Belgica said in his complaint.

The second rule cited by Belgica was:

Rule 7.03 – A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.

Belgica said that by absolving Aquino without providing reason, Morales “showed bias in favor of the former President who appointed her in contrast with the way she prosecuted former President Gloria Arroyo. In so doing, she failed to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and her conduct adversely reflected on her fitness to practice law.”

Impeachment, not disbarment 

Article IX, Section 2 of the Constitution clearly says: “The President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”

This is reiterated in the Ombudsman Act of 1989, that says the Ombudsman may only be removed if he or she is impeached or convicted of culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. 

Lawyer Oscar Franklin Tan pointed out, “The Ombudsman is required to be a lawyer under the Constitution. Thus, disbarment amounts to removing her, even though the Constitution only allows her removal through impeachment.”  

A disbarment case, therefore, can be seen as an indirect attempt to remove Morales from office.

“Allowing disbarment would allow an easier second method of removing her from office – a method not provided in the Constitution,” Tan added.

Asked about a possible impeachment complaint, Belgica said he is in on the efforts to file it.

“We are preparing an impeachment complaint, and I know some other people are also preparing, I will support that,” Belgica said.

Marami siyang inupuang kaso lalo na ‘yung sa SAF 44.” [(She) just sat on cases, especially the case of the SAF 44.]

Aquino had been earlier cleared of criminal charges over the botched Mamasapano operation in Maguindanao. It was only former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and ex-Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napeñas who were charged before the Sandiganbayan for graft and usurpation of public functions.

However, fresh complaints were filed against Aquino for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide by several families of the slain SAF 44.

Morales had said then she would resolve the complaint before she steps down next year. (READ: Complaint on Mamasapano vs Aquino not forgotten – Morales –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.