Indonesia

SC junks disbarment case vs Ombudsman Morales

Lian Buan
(UPDATED) The High Court affirms that the Ombudsman cannot be disbarred while she's still holding office

READY. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales says she is ready to meet 'head-on' the complaints against her. File photo by Noel Celis/AFP

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, March 28, dismissed the disbarment case against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales just 4 days after it was filed by former Manila city councilor Greco Belgica.

SC Spokesman Theodore Te said in a press briefing that the High Court dismissed the complaint for lack of merit, citing past decisions that have repeatedly affirmed the Ombudsman’s immunity from a disbarment complaint while she’s still holding office.

“The Court noted that Belgica’s logic – that the Ombudsman may be charged with disbarment during her incumbency but the penalty may only be imposed after her term ends – is faulty and clearly contravenes the established principle that the Ombudsman, who may be removed from office only by impeachment, cannot be charged with disbarment during her incumbency,”  the SC said in a statement. (READ: Can the Ombudsman be disbarred?)

In a statement, Belgica said his next move would be to file an impeachment complaint against Morales. 

“We thank the court for hearing the case. We will follow it and move for impeachment. All the best and my respects to the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court who also ruled unanimously that DAP is unconstitutional and that the Authors have criminal and administrative liabilities,” Belgica said.

DAP case

Belgica filed the disbarment case on grounds of alleged violation of the Canon of Professional Responsibility when Morales absolved former president Benigno Aquino III of criminal and administrative liability in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) case.

Belgica alleged that Morales “suppressed facts” when she did not provide due reason why Aquino was cleared. In her resolution, Morales said only former budget secretary Florencio Abad was charged for usurpation of legislative powers because he was the signatory on the circular that made DAP possible.

Bayan Muna, the complainant in the case, has filed a motion for reconsideration.

Belgica also alleged that Morales “engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on her fitness to practice law” when she supposedly showed bias for Aquino.

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) earlier said it is mulling an impeachment complaint against the Ombudsman for the delay in resolving cases, particularly the homicide charges they filed against Aquino over the botched police operations in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in 2015.

In an earlier statement, Morales said she was prepared to face the complaints because it was part of territory. “I am ready to meet head-on any complaint, anytime, anywhere. Wish them luck,” the Ombudsman said. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.