Ex-SolGen: Palace’s suspension of Carandang an ‘attack’ on SC
The decision of Malacañang to suspend Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang was not only an attack on the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman but also an attack on the Supreme Court (SC).
This was the statement of former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay as he chided the Palace for issuing a “patently unconstitutional order” when it suspended Carandang for probing President Rodrigo Duterte’s alleged hidden wealth.
“The 90-day suspension order of the President, made through the Executive Secretary, is a patently unconstitutional order which constitutes not just an attack on the independence of the Office of the ombudsman and but also, and more important, the Supreme Court,” Hilbay said on his personal Twitter account.
Hilbay cited a 2014 SC decision in Gonzales III v. Office of the President which declared unconstitutional the President’s disciplinary authority over a Deputy Ombudsman.
The suspension of Deputy Ombudsman Carandang is not simply an attack on the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman. It is also a serious attack on the authority of the Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/mg6P9MkuEh
— florin hilbay (@fthilbay) February 1, 2018
“The decision to suspend Mr. Carandang is therefore a ‘collateral attack’ on a final and executory judgment of the Supreme Court. This cannot be done,” Hilbay declared.
“The burden is therefore on the Executive Department to first seek a reversal of the prior judgment of the SC before acting inconsistently with that jurisprudence,” the former solicitor general pointed out.
Moreover, Hilbay said that the Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales was only following the law when she refused to enforce the Palace’s suspension order against Carandang.
“She (Morales) has the two-fold obligation of following the constitution and protecting the independence of her office. The law is clear, she simply followed it,” Hilbay said.
But while he acknowledged that the SC can reverse its decision, Hilbay pointed out that no public official can violate the law and seek its repeal later on.
“True, the SC can reverse its 2014 decision—but that is also beside the point. No public official, not even the President, can adopt a ‘violate-the-law-now, seek-reversal-later’ attitude when it comes to decisions of the SC,” the former solicitor general said.
“That attitude is incompatible with his constitutional obligation to enforce the law: it is the anti-thesis of the rule of law,” he stressed.
The suspension of Carandang was also tainted with “a personal conflict of interest,” Hilbay said, as the order was issued in connection with an investigation into allegations of Duterte’s hidden wealth.
“What triggered the action of the President is an investigation being conducted by the Ombudsman regarding his ill-gotten wealth. The unconstitutional act is tainted by a personal conflict of interest,” Hilbay said.
“The President is acting not to protect a beleaguered citizen from abuse of power by the Ombudsman. He is acting to protect himself. This act cannot pass any standard of fairness,” he emphasized. /je