Mocha Uson not off the hook, Ombudsman probe continues
MANILA, Philippines – Mocha Uson’s resignation will not affect the ongoing Ombudsman investigation into complaints filed against her for ethical breach while in office in Malacañang, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said on Thursday, October 4.
Martires replied “yes” to reporters’ questions on Thursday if the Office of the Ombudsman will continue its investigation despite Uson’s resignation as Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
Martires also confirmed that the Office of the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO) sent a letter on September 28 to Uson to ask her to submit within 10 days a reply to the complaint filed against her by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD).
The PFD accused Uson of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees as well as Magna Carta for Disabled Persons over a video where she and fellow blogger Drew Olivar made fun of the sign language.
In the letter signed by Assistant Ombudsman Joselito Fangon, Uson was also asked to explain the lewd federalism video where she and Olivar made a “Pepe-Dede” wordplay on federalism, which in Filipino means vagina and breasts.
“You are directed to submit a written explanation/comment on the said complaint and reports,” said Fangon.
Martires added that even PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar was asked to explain. “We issued an order requiring her and Andanar to file comments,” Martires said.
What happens next?
In a statement, Akbayan Youth said Uson "does not deserve a graceful exit" and should be made accountable for the "damage" she caused through disinformation in the government.
"It is time to rid the government of overpaid trolls. Mocha should never be allowed to join the government again, whether as an elected or appointed official," said Akbayan Youth.
The possible offenses referred to in the letter, as well as one other complaint filed by Akbayan Youth over spreading fake news, are administrative in nature.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly said in decisions that “resignation of a public servant does not preclude the finding of any administrative liability to which he or she shall still be answerable.”
Administrative guilt will result in the dismissal or suspension from office. But with Uson resigned, the implementation of dismissal or suspension will become moot.
However, administrative guilt comes with the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, which could be used against Uson’s possible candidacy or even re-appointments.
Election lawyers say it's a grey area as the dismissal has to be final for a group to validly oppose a candidacy before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), so it will be a tight timeline to the elections.
The scenarios remain speculative for now, but this will be a bone in Uson’s throat as she navigates through her political plans after resigning.
Uson said she is open to the possibility of running for government office, but that she is more focused on “fighting” administration foes through her blog, which, according to a Rappler content analysis, has been helping peddle fake news.
"May blog naman po ako so raratsada tayo doon. Bakbakan na 'toh, bakbakan na talaga ‘to (There are many senators and congressmen who have gone overboard…. I have a blog so we’ll carry on there. This is a fight, this is really a fight),” said Uson.
The PFD’s complaint against Uson also has a criminal charge, which is the violation of Magna Carta for Disabled Persons. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV also filed a criminal complaint for libel against Uson.
Since Magna Carta for Disabled Persons and libel are not crimes that are strictly cognizable by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, Uson could argue they are no longer under the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.
However, the most that can happen is for the complaints to be transferred to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said it’s up to Martires.
“It’s discretionary to the Ombudsman. They can retain jurisdiction even if Mocha has resigned, if they want, but chances are, they will refer to DOJ,” said Guevarra.
Martires has not yet replied to our request for comment to Guevarra’s remarks. – Rappler.com
We keep you informed because you matter
We tell you the stories that matter. We ask, we probe, we explain.
But as we strive to do all this and speak truth to power, we face constant threats to our independence.
Help us make a difference through free and fearless journalism. With your help, you enable us to keep providing you with our brand of compelling and investigative work.
Joining Rappler PLUS allows us to build communities of action with you. PLUS members will receive our editorial newsletters and industry reports, get to join exclusive online conversations with our award-winning journalists, and be part of our monthly events.
Make your move now. Join Rappler PLUS.