Senators back Aquino sacking of Gonzalez | Inquirer News

Senators back Aquino sacking of Gonzalez

Stay away from case, Ombudsman urged
By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 04:26 AM April 04, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Senators Sunday cautioned the Office of the Ombudsman against defying President Benigno Aquino III’s order to dismiss Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III for his inaction on a case of a former police officer, saying the President has the power to “hire and fire.”
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile advised Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to stay away from the matter and let the “law take its course.”

“The Ombudsman is defying the Office of the President,” Enrile said in a radio interview.


Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus balked at the President’s order, asserting that only the Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to discipline its officials and that it had already cleared Gonzalez of culpability.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Malacañang should enforce the order even if it meant “physically” removing Gonzalez from his office.


The Office of the President found Gonzalez administratively liable for neglect and misconduct amounting to betrayal of public trust for his delayed resolution on a case of dismissal against former Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza.

The delayed resolution pushed Mendoza to take a busload of tourists hostage in Manila on Aug. 23, 2010, which ended in the deaths of eight Hong Kong nationals and Mendoza.

The bungled police rescue of the tourists, shown live before a global TV audience, strained relations with China and prompted Hong Kong to advise its citizens against visiting the Philippines.

Regularity presumed

Pangilinan said there should be a “presumption of regularity” in Mr. Aquino’s order, and unless restrained by the courts, this must be respected and enforced.

“Absent any legal order preventing its enforcement, if he [Gonzalez] has to be bodily carried out by our law enforcement authorities, so be it. Unless they have forgotten, we are now under a new administration,” Pangilinan said in a text message.

Malacañang, however, said the order could still be appealed to the Office of the President or in court, otherwise it was final and executory.


Enrile reminded the Office of the Ombudsman that Mr. Aquino’s dismissal of Gonzalez was executory unless a court stopped it.

Supervision of employees

While the Ombudsman is a constitutional body independent of the executive department, Mr. Aquino exercises supervision and control of this office and its employees, the Senate president said.

“They have to study their position … He has the power to hire and fire; the power to appoint and remove except when the Constitution establishes a different norm of removal, in which case the manner of removal must be followed,” Enrile said.

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chair of the House committee on justice, also said Gutierrez had no choice but to follow the President’s decision.

Under the Ombudsman Act, the President has disciplinary authority over the deputies and the special prosecutor, Tupas said.

Proper course of action

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said the proper course of action was for Gonzalez to either file a motion for reconsideration or bring his case to the proper court.

Enrile acknowledged that the Office of the Ombudsman had the right to ask for a temporary restraining order or injunction to stop the dismissal.

“But unless there is an injunction or a TRO (temporary restraining order), the order of the President is executory,” he said.

Impeachment trial

Enrile advised Gutierrez to submit to the President’s order dismissing Gonzalez.

“Let the processes of the law take its course,” he said. “If I were her, I won’t join the fray because she’s facing a case,” the Senate president added, referring to an impeding impeachment trial in the Senate of Gutierrez.

The Senate is convening as an impeachment court in May to try Gutierrez, who was impeached for allegedly betraying pubic trust by failing to act on major anomalous deals forged by the Arroyo administration.

As for Gonzalez, Enrile said: “He’s a lawyer. He should know how to protect himself.”

Pangilinan said it was time for the government to put an end to the “wanton disregard of the rule of law so characteristic of the previous administration.”

“We need to exorcise the nation of the ghosts of the past regime wherein the Constitution and the rule of law were upheld only when it served the purpose of the incumbent. Enough is enough,” he said.

Letting case sleep

Enrile said the President was justified in ordering the dismissal of Gonzalez, who reportedly took nine months before acting on Mendoza’s case.

“That’s too long. Why did he let the case sleep that long? What did he do in nine months? Study every word of Mendoza’s case? That’s suspicious. If I were in the President’s shoes, I would also be suspicious. One month, two months, that’s reasonable. But nine months? My God, what’s that?” he said.

Months before the hostage-taking, Gonzalez had already acted on Mendoza’s motion appealing his dismissal from the police force on extortion charges.

Gonzalez’s ruling endorsing Mendoza’s dismissal was not released before the former police officer took the tourists hostage.

The President’s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said Gonzalez was given the chance to respond to the charges against him in connection with last year’s bus hostage-taking.

No show at hearing

Valte said Gonzalez did not even show up at a hearing in February he had requested from the Palace.

She said on government radio dzRB said that after the Office of the President (OP) issued a “show cause” notice to Gonzalez, he responded to the charges recommended by an incident investigation and review committee on Nov. 4 last year.

“He (Gonzalez) asked for a formal hearing, which the OP gave him, but he did not show up,” she said.

In a phone interview, Valte said Gonzalez had also “contest(ed) the jurisdiction of the OP to investigate him but he also asked for a formal hearing.” With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. and Christine O. Avendaño

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