Panelo: Morales may face raps for defying suspension order

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales may face administrative and criminal sanctions for refusing to enforce Malacañang’s suspension order against Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo made the warning on Wednesday, January 31.

In a statement, Panelo noted that Duterte’s order of preventive suspension against Carandang is “presumed to be valid and legal” until a court declares it is not.

“It behooves therefore the public official authorized to implement the order to enforce the same against respondent [Carandang]. Any willful refusal to do so or any deliberate act impeding such enforcement may open the said official to administrative and criminal sanctions,” he said.

Duterte’s top lawyer also underscored that “anyone who disagrees with the suspension is free to question the same before the courts.”

“In the meantime, the suspension should be implemented by the Office of the Ombudsman. Otherwise, its officials risk violating the same legal process that they assume to adhere to,” Panelo added.

Last week, the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) issued a 90-day preventive suspension against Carandang for publicizing the alleged bank transactions of Duterte and his family.

But Morales said her office will not enforce Malacañang’s order, tagging it as “unconstitutional.”

She noted that the Supreme Court (SC), in a 2014 decision, has declared unconstitutional the Section 8 (2) of Republic Act (RA) No. 6770 or the Ombudsman law, which provides that “a Deputy or the Special Prosecutor may be removed from office by the President or any of the grounds provided for the removal of the Ombudsman and after due process.”

“The Ombudsman cannot, therefore, seriously place at risk the independence of the very Office which she has pledged to protect on the strength of the constitutional guarantees which the High Court has upheld,” Morales said.

But Panelo claimed that Duterte “has no desire or intention to intrude upon the Constitutionally enshrined independence of the Office of the Ombudsman.”

“In suspending Overall Deputy Melchor Arthur Carandang, the President is in fact protecting and preserving the Constitutional article on Public Accountability,” he said.

He cited the Section 1, Article XI of the Constitution, which provides that “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

“Thus, the president is just adhering to his mandate to ensure that all laws are faithfully executed, including the Constitution,” Panelo claimed.

He added, “To be clear, the implementation of check-and-balances in government and the enforcement of public accountability is not incongruent with the respect for Constitutionally guaranteed independence.”

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