Mastering the art of ‘selective justice’

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AL S. VITANGCOL III

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte during the oath-taking of new presidential appointees in Malacañang on Tuesday, castigated Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for her perceived mastery of “selective justice”.

The President was direct to the point when he emphatically said, “no less than the Office of the Ombudsman, which is supposedly the embodiment of everything that is just, fair, and reasonable has not exactly lived up to its constitutional mandate. And may I add, her hold on the office is very, very precarious. You’re supposed to serve the remaining term of the guy who resigned, not to a full term.”

“The Office of the Ombudsman rightly stresses the importance of due process of law. Yet, it cannot act on complaints with the cold neutrality of an impartial tribunal, which is specifically required in due process. It seems that the Office of the Ombudsman has mastered the art of selective justice—harsh on some, soft on others, even if they all suffer from similar and analogous circumstances. Slow to act on complaints against the friendly, but quick to decide from perceived hostiles. The enemy of the Ombudsman’s friends, is the Ombudsman’s enemy, too. So, it seems. This is how I see it from where I stand,” the President added

Constitution on serving only unexpired term
Article IX of the Constitution deals with the independent Constitutional Commissions. These Commissions are the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and the Commission on Audit (COA).

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The second paragraph of Section 1 of Article IX-B mandates that, “Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired term of the predecessor.” The same holds true for Section 1, Article IX-C and Section 1, Article IX-D.

It is obvious that the intent of the Constitution, for independent bodies like the CSC, the Comelec and the COA, that the tenure for any “replacement” official is only the “unexpired term of the predecessor.” This is where the President is coming from.

Any independent body, created by law, should not exceed what is mandated by the Constitution. However, this is not the situation for the Ombudsman.

Not true for Morales case
Morales holds a full term of office, according to Republic Act 6770, or the Ombudsman’s Act of 1989, which established the Office of the Ombudsman and defined the qualifications, appointment, and term of office of the Ombudsman, the Deputies, and the Special Prosecutor.

Its Section 7 prescribes that the “Ombudsman and his Deputies, including the Special Prosecutor, shall serve for a term of seven (7) years without reappointment.”

In terms of vacancy and filling up of vacated positions, the third paragraph of its Section 8 is controlling—“[i]n case of vacancy in the Office of the Ombudsman due to death, resignation, removal or permanent disability of the incumbent Ombudsman, the Overall Deputy shall serve as Acting Ombudsman in a concurrent capacity until a new Ombudsman shall have been appointed for a full term.”

This means that when an incumbent Ombudsman is removed, for whatever reason, the replacement (meaning, the newly appointed Ombudsman) shall serve for a full term. This is my understanding of this particular proviso.

Is it really the intent of this law to supplant the general mandate of the Constitution? Somebody should clarify this matter with the Supreme Court.

Ombudsman and ‘selective justice’
I have proven in several instances that the Office of the Ombudsman has indeed mastered the art of “selective justice”. It can literally sit on a complaint if it is against a “friendly” ally, but act with haste and dispatch on complaints against perceived enemies.

This is not confined within the walls of the Office of the Ombudsman but extends well beyond it.

For one, the Office of the Ombudsman has blatantly violated its own rules in subservience to its appointing masters. Under Section 2 of Rule V of Administrative Order 07, the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman, “When circumstances so warrant and with due prudence, the Office of the Ombudsman may publicize in a fair and balanced manner the filing of a complaint xxx, and the final resolution, decision or action taken thereon: Provided, however, that prior to such final action, no publicity shall be made of matters which may adversely affect national security or public interest, prejudice the safety of witnesses or the disposition of the case, or unduly expose persons complained against to ridicule or public censure.”

But this is not so. The Ombudsman freely distributes press releases to its “friendly networks” to denounce the alleged wrongdoings of its enemies, without prudence, without judiciousness to its influencing the disposition of the case before the Sandiganbayan, and without care that the alleged wrongdoer would be exposed to ridicule and public censure. Due process? Impartial tribunal? Tell that to the Marines!

Selected decisions are made first and the facts twisted later to suit the decision – contrary to the normal norms of decision-making. When an adverse decision is rendered against a respondent, it is second nature to file a motion for reconsideration of the said decision. Wisdom dictates that the review should be handled by another investigator. Not in the case of the Ombudsman’s enemies. The same graft investigator, who penned the questioned decision, is again assigned to resolve the motion. This defeats the purpose of filing a motion for reconsideration. On the contrary, it ensures that “selective justice” prevails.

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