The Office of the President (OP) on January 29, 2018 suspended for 90 days Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang for grave misconduct and other administrative offenses for allegedly disclosing bank records of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Palace, through Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the OP had the power to discipline Carandang hoping that the Supreme Court “revisit” its decision in 2014 declaring that the OP had “no power of discipline over the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman.”

To recall, in the case of Emilio A. Gonzales III v. Office of the President, etc., G.R. No. 196231, 28 January 2014, the OP found Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III guilty of Gross Neglect of Duty and Grave Misconduct. Accordingly, this action by the OP was based on Section 8(2) of RA No. 6770 otherwise known as “The Ombudsman Act of 1989”, vesting the President disciplinary authority over the Deputy Ombudsman. When the case reached the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land declared said Section of the law unconstitutional.

The Court explained that “subjecting the Deputy Ombudsman to discipline and removal by the President, whose own alter egos and officials in the Executive Department are subject to the Ombudsman’s disciplinary authority, cannot but seriously place at risk the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman itself. The Office of the Ombudsman, by express constitutional mandate, includes its key officials, all of them tasked to support the Ombudsman in carrying out her mandate. Unfortunately, intrusion upon the constitutionally-granted independence is what Section 8(2) of RA No. 6770 exactly did. By so doing, the law directly collided not only with the independence that the Constitution guarantees to the Office of the Ombudsman, but inevitably with the principle of checks and balances that the creation of an Ombudsman office seeks to revitalize.”

It seems that the President has exceeded his authority in suspending Carandang.

Section 8 (2) of RA No. 6770 having been declared as unconstitutional, it can never be invoked to validate as constitutional an unconstitutional act.

What do you think?