After Carandang, VACC goes after another Deputy Ombudsman

Lian Buan
After Carandang, VACC goes after another Deputy Ombudsman
The complaint is filed before the Office of the President despite an SC ruling declaring the President's power to remove a deputy ombudsman and special prosecutor unconstitutional

MANILA, Philippines – Dismissed Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo, aided by lawyers from the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), filed a complaint before the Office of the President (OP) seeking the removal of Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Paul Clemente.

The complaint, which was filed on Monday, January 8, is the second complaint VACC lodged before the OP against a sitting Deputy Ombudsman. This time, it’s lawyer Manny Luna handling the complaint.

In October, VACC asked the OP to investigate, and then remove, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang for saying that his probe into President Rodrigo Duterte’s bank records so far reveal a cash flow of almost P1 billion.

Degamo and VACC’s complaint against Clemente stems from the decision to remove the former governor from office, and charge him for graft over two issues from 2012. 

One is the funding of P143 million worth of infrastructure projects post-calamity despite a withdrawn Special Allotment and Release Order (SARO), and the other is the release of P10 million worth of intelligence funds without the proper ordinance of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP).

Degamo has already sued Clemente before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in March 2017.

In his complaint submitted to the OP, he repeated his argument that the condonation doctrine absolves him of liability because he has been reelected. The Supreme Court killed the doctrine in 2015 to prevent its abuse, but Degamo claimed he is not covered because the offenses happened in 2012 or before the ruling.

“Clemente’s refusal to apply the Condonation doctrine in favor of complainant amounted to evident bad faith. Thus, the recommendation to dismiss complainant from service (with accessory penalties) or to approve the Decision made by respondent Clemente could only constitute betrayal of the public’s trust,” said the complaint.

Why OP?

Degamo is running to the OP because the DOJ cannot suspend or remove public officials. Degamo does not expect the Office of the Ombudsman to discipline its own. 

The President, however, has the power under Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman law to remove a Deputy Ombudsman and the Special Prosecutor. The Ombudsman can only be removed by impeachment.

But, in 2014, the SC declared that power unconstitutional.

In an earlier press conference, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the SC ruling can be reversed.

“The SC ruled with a vote of 8-7, meaning to say there’s only one vote difference. I’m confident that if someone challenges it we will be able to reverse it,” Calida said in October, threatening Carandang and even Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales with lawsuits over the Duterte bank records probe.

Luna said “the OP might disregard the decision to trigger a revisit by the SC.”

VACC has also filed an impeachment complaint against Morales at the House of Representatives, but without the required endorsement of a lawmaker.

VACC said they want to cleanse the Office of the Ombudsman, accusing Morales of colluding with her deputies to smear the President. 

These complaints against Ombudsman officials are filed against the backdrop of Duterte’s own threats to investigate Morales and the whole office. – Rappler.com

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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.