The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the consolidated petitions filed by a lawyer and former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol seeking to order Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to immediately vacate her post for supposedly overstaying for five years.
SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the decision during the magistrates’ summer session in Baguio City on Tuesday.
Te said the high court justices unanimously voted that the Ombudsman is appointed to a full term of seven years without reappointment and not simply the unexpired portion of the predecessor.
“The Court, voting unanimously, dismissed the Petitions in these consolidated cases, ruling that, as provided in Article XI, Sec. 11 of the 1986 Constitution, Secs. 7 and 8(3) of Republic Act No. 6770, the Ombudsman is appointed to a full term of seven years without reappointment and not simply the unexpired portion of the predecessor,” Te told reporters.
In his petition, lawyer Rey Nathaniel Ifurung urged the high court to declare unconstitutional Section 8 (3) of Republic Act (RA) No. 6770, also known as the Ombudsman Act of 1989, for being contrary to Section 11 in relation to Sections 8 and 10, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution.
Morales was appointed to a seven-year term on July 25, 2011 following the resignation of then-Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez over allegations of incompetence and inaction on various cases.
Aside from Morales, Ifurung said her deputies, namely Melchor Arthur Carandang (Overall Deputy Ombudsman), Gerard Mosquera (Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon), Paul Elmer Clemente (Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas), Rodolfo Elman (Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao) and Cyril Ramos (Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices) must also step down from their posts.
Meanwhile, Vitangcol’s petition asked the SC to declare that the term of office of Morales as expired on Nov. 30, 2012.
Morales replaced Merceditas Gutierrez, who resigned on May 6, 2011 from the post to avoid an impeachment trial in the Senate, leaving an unexpired term until Nov. 30, 2012.
He said intent of the law was for the successor of Gutierrez to serve the remainder of her term only, not for a fresh term of seven years.
He urged the SC to declare Section 8 (3) of Republic Act 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989) as unconstitutional for contravening the legislative intent that in case of vacancy, the new appointee should only serve the unexpired term of his or her predecessor.
Section 8 (3) assures a fresh seven-year term for the successor of the incumbent Ombudsman and his deputies.
“Legislative intent is part and parcel of the law. It is the controlling factor in interpreting a statute. In fact, any interpretation that runs counter with the legislative intent is unacceptable and invalid,” read the petition stated.
Vitangcol is being prosecuted by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan over the alleged anomaly in MRT 3 during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.
Shortly after her retirement as SC Associate Justice, Aquino appointed Morales as Ombudsman on July 28, 2011.
Morales is set to end her stint at the anti-graft body on July 26, 2018.
Morales is the sister of lawyer Lucas Carpio, Jr., husband of retired Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Agnes Reyes-Carpio.
Lucas and Agnes are the parents of lawyer Mans Carpio, the husband of President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan, Philippine News Agency)