Ques­tion­ing Car­pio-Mo­rales’s term

Om­buds­man Law is spe­cific about the new ap­pointee serv­ing the full term. And the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides for seven years

Sun.Star Cebu - - OPINION - PACHICO A. SEARES paseares@gmail.com

“The law is clear. You are sup­posed to serve the re­main­ing time of the guy who served be­fore you. But this has not been ques­tioned un­til now.”

-- Pres­i­dent Duterte, ad­dress­ing Om­buds­man Con­chita Car­pio-Mo­rales

As­sail­ing the al­leged “se­lec­tive jus­tice” of Om­buds­man Con­chita Car­pio-Mo­rales. Pres­i­dent Duterte Tues­day (Aug. 29) also sought to cap her on the knee: her al­leged ab­sence of the right to stay longer in of­fice.

By Duterte’s count that she could serve only the un­ex­pired term of her pre­de­ces­sor Merced­i­tas Gu­tier­rez, the term of Car­pio-Mo­rales should’ve ended last Feb. 1, 2015. Not July 8, 2018, if reck­oned for a full seven years. The law is clear, Duterte said. Yes, so crys­tal clear for the Ju­di­cial and Bar Coun­cil to de­cide, as it did, last May 2, 2011 that the om­budus­man ap­pointed to re­place an om­buds­man who resigns “shall serve the full term” of seven years.

JBC rul­ing

The JBC “put to rest” the ques­tion which was raised as early as 2011, not just last June 29 (when lawyer Nathaniel Hurong pe­ti­tioned the Supreme Court against Car­pio-Mo­rales’s con­tin­ued ser­vice).

An old ques­tion al­ready set­tled by JBC and now res­ur­rected by a lawyer and picked up by the pres­i­dent.

Had both lawyers checked Repub­lic Act 6770, the om­buds­man law, they would’ve found sec­tion 8, para­graph three. It says the over-all deputy (om­buds­man) “shall serve as act­ing om­buds­man, un­til a new om­buds­man shall be ap­pointed for a full term.” And the full term un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion for the om­buds­man and his or her deputies is seven years.

Un­nec­es­sary, wrong

Noth­ing about the new om­buds­man serv­ing only the un­ex­pired part of the term of the pre­de­ces­sor.

By this time, the pres­i­den­tial le­gal coun­sel will have al­ready re-read the law and some JBC mem­bers, in­clud­ing Sen. Fran­cis Es­cud­ero, will have re­called how it set­tled the is­sue six years ago.

Now some cloud of doubt hangs over Om­buds­man Car­pio-Mo­rales af­ter the pres­i­dent no less pub­licly doubted her right to the of­fice and au­thor­ity to de­cide. Un­nec­es­sary and wrong, which could’ve been avoided by check­ing the law and JBC’s po­si­tion on the is­sue.

Un­der at­tack

The charge that Car­pio-Mo­rales is do­ing “se­lec­tive jus­tice” is an­other mat­ter although that could be the mo­tive for the as­sault on her term.

Per­haps the om­buds­man’s of­fice and the of­fice of the pres­i­dent can separately au­dit the cases and find solid ba­sis for the charge. As it is, it’s an un-doc­u­mented blast against an om­buds­man who could be do­ing the right thing be­fore her term ends next year.

Come to think of it, three ma­jor con­sti­tu­tional in­sti­tu­tions be­ing at­tacked, de­servedly or not, by go­ing af­ter their lead­ers: the om­buds­man, the Supreme Court chief jus­tice, and the Com­elec chair­man. Some­thing is go­ing on.

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