Can Morales be Ombudsman for more than one year? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 May 2017 14:48

KAKAMPI MO ANG BATAS

BY Atty. BATAS MAURICIO

LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… maintain justice in the courts…” (Amos 5:15, the Holy Bible).

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ISSUE ON OMBUDSMAN MORALES’ TERM SURFACES: There was an interesting point that was raised during the episode of the DZEC (1062 kHz) radio program “Tambalang Batas at Somintac” on Monday, May 08, 2017, dealing with the length of time during which Conchita Carpio Morales should serve as an Ombudsman.

In the program which airs Mondays to Fridays at 6 in the morning, my partner, Vic Somintac, and I, raised the question: considering that Morales was appointed in the aftermath of the resignation of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in 2011, how long should she, Morales, be Ombudsman?

This should be clarified now because, under Section 11, Art. XI, of the 1987 Constitution, the Ombudsman and his deputies are given a fixed term of office of only seven years each, no more, no less, in this manner: “The Ombudsman and his Deputies shall serve for a term of seven years without reappointment…”

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CAN MORALES SERVE AS OMBUDSMAN FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR? The point that Somintac and I raised during our radio program was that, since Morales was appointed only to replace Gutierrez who by that time already served for full six years, should not Morales serve only the unexpired portion of Gutierrez’ seven-year term? By serving more than the unexpired portion of Gutierrez’ term, was Morales merely usurping the position?

In short, from our point of view, it would appear that Morales should be entitled to be Ombudsman for just one year only from her appointment in 2011 by President Benigno Aquino III, since the predecessor that she replaced, Gutierrez, only had one year left in her own seven year term. Put differently, as Morales was only a replacement of an Ombudsman who only had one year left in office, Morales could serve for only one year, too.

Indeed, things would have been different if Morales was appointed as Ombudsman after Gutierrez shall have finished her full seven year term in 2012. If Gutierrez was allowed to finish her term in 2012, and it was only then that Morales got appointed, there would then be no question that Morales would have been entitled to the seven year term provided for by the Constitution.

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SC MUST BE ASKED TO RULE ON MORALES’ TERM: And, Morales certainly could not derive comfort on this issue from Republic Act 6770, or the Ombudsman Act of 1989, which purports to contain a section (Section 8)  dealing with the resignation of an incumbent Ombudsman.

This is simply because that Section 8 does not deal with the issue of a replacement Ombudsman having her own full seven-year term, or is mandated to serve only the unexpired portion of the predecessor’s term. Section 8 deals merely with the issue of the Overall Deputy Ombudsman continuing as Acting Ombudsman until a new Ombudsman is appointed for a full term.

I am hoping that some well-meaning citizens can perhaps ask the Supreme Court to rule on this interesting legal point. Especially because a little research will show that even Gutierrez herself got appointed to that position only after her own predecessor, Simeon Marcelo, also resigned his position due to health considerations. Any takers on this?

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