SC junks Belgica’s disbarment case against Ombudsman, affirms she cannot be disbarred while holding office

The Supreme Court dismissed losing senatorial candidate Greco Belgica’s disbarment case against four days after it was filed.

The High Court junked the complaint for lack of merit and affirmed the Ombudsman’s immunity from being disbarred while she is still in office, said SC Spokesman Theodore Te during a press briefing.
The SC’s statement said:

“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.”

Belgica said that he would file an impeachment complaint against Morales.

The former Manila City councilor tried to have Morales disbarred over her alleged violation of the Canon of Professional Responsibility for absolving former President Benigno Aquino III of administrative and criminal liability in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). He accused the Ombudsman of having “suppressed facts” for failing to provide a reason behind her decision to clear Aquino.

Morales earlier decided to charge former budget secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad for usurpation of legislative powers because he was the signatory on the circular that led to the development of DAP.

Belgica also accused Morales of showing bias for Aquino.

On her part, Ombudsman Morales said that she is ready to face any complaint “head-on.”

The Ombudsman cannot be disbarred

Rappler’s Newsbreak explored the issue of a disbarment complaint against an Ombudsman and showed that what SC rulings would qualify for an Ombudsman’s impeachment and conviction.

Upon consulting lawyer Oscar Tan, this is what he said:
“To afford the Ombudsman maximum independence and protection, the Constitution prohibits removal of the Ombudsman during her fixed term except through impeachment. Allowing disbarment would allow an easier second method of removing her from office – a method not provided in the Constitution.”

Newsbreak then referred to Article IX, Section 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which said:

“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.”

The investigative paper also noted Republic Act 6770, which set out a clearer guideline on how to remove the Ombudsman:

“In accordance with the provisions of Article XI of the Constitution, 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.”

Sources: ( , )

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