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Lawyers’ group head bucks probe of Ombudsman

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Lawyers’ group head bucks probe of Ombudsman

/ 07:26 AM September 30, 2017

The leader of country’s largest group of lawyers described as “constitutionally suspect” President Duterte’s plan to create a commission that would investigate the Office of the Ombudsman.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines President Abdiel Fajardo said the creation of a commission to investigate a constitutional body was “at best, constitutionally suspect.”

The creation of such a commission, either by executive issuance or by an act of Congress, “effectively defeats the independence and flexibility needed by the Ombudsman,” Fajardo said.

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Fiscal autonomy

“It is judicially established that the Office of the Ombudsman does not owe its existence to any act of Congress. It was created by the Constitution itself. It enjoys fiscal autonomy,” he said.

“As an independent body it must be insulated from political pressure—most especially from the highest political office in the land.  To allow such pressure would result in the prostitution or impairment of its core functions,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo said the President’s recent outburst against the Ombudsman was “very unfortunate” since he held the highest office in the land.

“The President must not be onion-skinned. He holds the highest rank in the executive department. Public office is a public trust,” he said.

‘Desperate man’

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, on the other hand, said the President’s remarks were that of a “desperate man.”

“Such is a move only of a desperate man. It is a clear threat [to] and intimidation [of] an independent, constitutional body in order to divert and smokescreen his liabilities,” Alejano said.

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“I see all of these as attempts to discredit Ombudsman. Despite these, I pray that Ombudsman [will] remain steadfast [in] its mandate of being a vanguard against corruption,”  he said.

“Let us not be distracted. Duterte has [made] all sorts of claims to clear himself, but the fact remains—he still has not signed the waiver to his bank accounts,” he said.

Alejano said he already expected Mr. Duterte’s reaction purportedly because of the President’s supposed penchant for skirting unfavorable issues.

“He, instead, would make another commotion, another ‘crisis’ to divert the attention of the public away from him,” Alejano said.

Partisan support

But Mr. Duterte’s proposal also met approval with allies in the House of Representatives.

“The allegations of corruption in the Office of the Ombudsman are serious, and must not be taken lightly,” said PBA Rep. Jericho Nograles, brother of Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles.

“The Ombudsman is the public defender and they should conduct themselves with utmost professionalism. The practice of politically biased investigations should stop,” he said.

“I agree that pronouncements from their office regarding ongoing investigations or preliminary findings deprive persons of due process,” he said.

“Any deprivation of due process by an impeachable officer may constitute betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution,” Nograles added.

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TAGS: Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Ombudsman, Philippine news updates, President Duterte
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