Ombudsman has no authority over Duterte – Koko Pimentel

Camille Elemia
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon calls for a 'ceasefire' and says only Congress has jurisdiction over impeachable officials

JURISDICTION. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III says the Office of the Ombudsman has no power over President Rodrigo Duterte. File photo by Joseph Vidal

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the Office of the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over President Rodrigo Duterte.

Pimentel made the remark after Duterte said he would snub the Ombudsman probe into his wealth, following the agency’s revelation that he had some P1 billion in cash flow in his accounts.

“Si Presidente is like the Ombudsman (The President is like the Ombudsman), they are both impeachable officials. Theoretically, tama si Presidente [the President is right] that no one has jurisdiction over him except Congress and then Senate. Congress to impeach him, Senate to try him. Theoretically, he is correct,” Pimentel told reporters on Monday, October 2.

Tama silang pareho. (They are both correct.) No one is immune from investigation, but the President is immune from suits, from cases, except an impeachment case, but the President is also not required to cooperate with this investigation ng Ombudsman,” he said.

Pimentel also said Malacañang should be allowed to probe the issue.

He said that Duterte has issues not only against the Ombudsman, “but the entire Office of the Ombudsman,” particularly alleged corruption inside the agency.

“Let him investigate. Let’s allow the Executive branch to investigate the Office of the Ombudsman,” he added.

Duterte earlier said he will create a commission to investigate the Ombudsman for alleged corruption.

He also challenged Morales and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to resign with him, saying that if none of them get the authority to investigate each other for corruption then it will be the military who will do so.

Impeachment is way to go

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, for his part, said Congress has the sole power to investigate and prosecute impeachable officials and called for a “ceasefire” between Duterte and the Ombudsman.

He advised Duterte to just file an impeachment complaint against Morales if he is in possession of any evidence against her. Duterte is also an impeachable officer.

“We must keep in mind that the Constitution has enough safeguards to discipline and go after erring officials. The power to investigate and prosecute impeachable officers such as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman lies solely in Congress through an impeachment,” Drilon said.

Under Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution, 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, he cited.

“The President cannot exercise authority and influence over an independent body such as the Ombudsman, more so over a co-equal branch of government such as the judiciary. That is how our structure of government is contemplated under the constitution,” Drilon said.

“The Congress can provide checks and balances with the executive, the judiciary and independent constitutional commissions but the Constitution has likewise provided them sufficient power to be independent and isolated from pressure in order to effectively carry out their constitutional duties,” Drilon said. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com