SC Spokesman: President has no disciplinary power over Deputy Ombudsman

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 1) — Supreme Court (SC) Spokesman Theodore Te said Thursday the Office of the President has no disciplinary power to suspend a deputy ombudsman.

In the wake of Malacañang and the Ombudsman's possible deadlock on the suspension of Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, Te confirmed the SC struck down in 2014 the President's power to fire officials of Carandang's rank.

"Malinaw po yung sinabi ng korte-- unconstitutional siya, walang kapangyarihan yung Pangulo na disiplinahin ang deputy ombudsman dahil ito ay paglabag sa independence ng Ombudsman," he told CNN Philippines' Balitaan.

[Translation: The court was clear-- it's unconstitutional, the President doesn't have the power to discipline a deputy obudsman because it violates the Ombudsman's independence.]

He said he does not know what argument or power on which the executive is basing Carandang's suspension, but stressed the provision that previously allowed it under the Ombudsman Act no longer stands.

Te was referring to Section 8 Article 2 of the Ombudsman Act of 1989, which lets the President remove special prosecutors and deputy ombudsmen from their posts.

The court affirmed the article in Gonzales III vs. Office of the President in 2012, but later reversed the ruling in 2014, when it denied the President disciplinary jurisdiction over deputy ombudsmen.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales cited the case Wednesday when she refused to enforce Carandang's 90-day suspension.

She called the suspension order from the Palace "a clear affront" to the SC and the "constitutionally-enshrined" independence of her office.

READ: Ombudsman says it will not enforce Palace suspension vs. Carandang

Te said unless the court reverses the ruling, it will carry over to every President and deputy ombudsman.

"The legal status is the 2014 decision is final, executory, and binding until it is set aside," said Te.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, however, maintained Malacañang is bent on enforcing the suspension.

"There cannot be an impasse. There is only one sitting president in this country and he will implement the law," Roque said. 

Carandang was suspended by the Office of the President on Monday for supposedly spreading false information on President Rodrigo Duterte's bank accounts.

The Office of the Executive Secretary charged the Deputy Ombudsman with grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for misuse of confidential information and disclosing false information. This was in line with the complaint of Manuel Luna and Eligio Mallari filed in October 2017.

Roque said the suspension will be implemented unless a temporary restraining order is issued by the court. He added, it's up to Carandang to seek a TRO if he feels the suspension is unconstitutional.

Carandang said last year he received a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that President Rodrigo Duterte's bank account has amounted to over P1 billion. The AMLC, however, denied it provided any report to the Ombudsman on Duterte's bank transactions.

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong and Amanda Lingao contributed to this story.