Ombudsman Morales questions ‘Aguinaldo doctrine’ in Binay TRO
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Friday said the so-called “Aguinaldo doctrine” hampers the duty of the antigraft office to investigate public officials accused of corruption.
In an ambush interview at the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday, Morales asked for the revisitation of the condonation doctrine that was used by the camp of Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay in securing a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the preventive suspension order against him due to graft charges.
Morales said she told the Supreme Court in the oral arguments over Binay’s TRO to revisit the doctrine, adding that it applied to administrative complaints and not to criminal like the one alleged against Makati Mayor Binay in the purported anomalous bidding of the allegedly overpriced Makati City Parking Building.
“We are pleading for the revisiting of that doctrine which was adopted by the courts in 1959, almost 55 years ago. Given the fact that the 1987 Constitution is very emphatic on the drive against corruption, it calls for honesty among public officials, it calls for public accountability, then that policy should motivate the revisiting of the condonation doctrine because there’s no law, there’s no constitution that allows such doctrine,” Morales, a former Supreme Court Associate Justice, told reporters.
“It was just based on a policy so it is really the Supreme Court which can reverse that or modify that,” she added.
She added that the doctrine was adopted in 1959 and enshrined in a Supreme Court decision Aguinaldo vs Santos.
The Aguinaldo doctrine states that any reelected local official may not be held administratively accountable for misconduct committed during his prior term of office.
According to Aguinaldo vs Santos, the Supreme Court made clear the rule that a reelected public official cannot be removed for administrative misconduct committed during a prior term, since his reelection to office means the voting public has condoned him of any misconduct.
“The ratio decidendi behind the application of the condonation doctrine is allegedly the people are assumed to have known of the misdeeds or the offenses committed by the public officer and therefore despite their knowledge … the officer is still reelected to the same position,” she said.
Mayor Binay has cited the doctrine in his bid for TRO, saying while he signed the contracts for the questionable bidding during his first stint as mayor from 2010 to 2013, he was reelected to the same position in 2013, and therefore he should have been condoned for his alleged commission of the offense.
The Ombudsman said the doctrine hampers them from investigating any administrative complaints against public officials, but it shouldn’t stop them from investigating them for criminal charges.
She insisted on the six-months preventive suspension against Binay, adding that it is not a penalty but a means to prevent the incumbent mayor from using his position to tamper with evidence or influence witnesses in the course of the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation.
“It hampers our investigation process of the administrative aspect because one of the purposes of issuing preventive suspension order is to temporarily remove the public officer from his office to enable the office of the Ombudsman to access records and to preserve records which are already in our possession … Now this preventive suspension thing should also be working for the preventively suspended officer because chances are, if we access these documents, this is only administrative complaint, chances are the administrative officer is able to controvert the evidence so it works both ways,” Morales said.
“If you have nothing to hide, you are not supposed to arrest the powers of Ombudsman to secure evidence in support of its complaint … This is only a preventive measure, this is not a penalty,” she said.
Morales faced her former colleagues in the Supreme Court during the oral arguments over Binay’s TRO, saying the preventive suspension is vital for the Ombudsman to conduct its mandate of investigating alleged corrupt acts.
The Binays and the Ombudsman are at odds over the preventive suspension order especially since the Court of Appeals has released a TRO.
While Binay’s camp has said he remains Makati mayor since the appellate court issued the TRO, the Ombudsman maintained that the order came a little too late because it was issued after the Department of Interior and Local Government has already served the suspension order.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV added fire to the conflict when he accused the appellate justices who granted the TRO of being paid off by Vice President Jejomar Binay.
When pressed by a reporter if the Ombudsman thought Mayor Binay was hiding behind the TRO and the Aguinaldo doctrine, the former magistrate chose to kept mum.
“I did not say that baby,” Morales said. RC
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.