A former Manila councilor asked the high tribunal on Friday to strip Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales of her license as a lawyer for clearing former president Benigno Aquino 3rd of graft in the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was allegedly used to bribe senators and congressmen to impeach the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Greco Belgica, a senatorial candidate in last year’s polls, accused Morales of violating her oath as a lawyer. “In absolving the [former]president of criminal liability by omitting his name in the discussion relative to the finding of probable cause against former [Budget] secretary Florencio Abad, the Filipino people was deprived of their right to procedural due process,” Belgica said.
In particular, the Ombudsman was accused of violating Rule 6.01 of the Canon of Professional Responsibility after she failed to perform her duty “to see that justice is done.”
Belgica claimed she also violated Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 when she failed to “uphold the integrity and dignity” of the legal profession in clearing Aquino “without reason.”
“Taking into consideration the fact that the former president appointed her, her conduct of favoring the former president adversely reflected her fitness to practice law,” he argued.
Aquino appointed Morales to the Office of the Ombudsman in July 2011. If disbarred, Morales would be ousted because the 1987 Constitution requires that the Ombudsman must be a lawyer.
In the DAP case, Abad was given a “slap on the wrist” and was indicted only for usurpation of legislative powers for unlawfully issuing National Budget Circular No. 541 that was used to carry out the DAP.
DAP, a stimulus package under the previous Aquino administration that sought to fast-track public spending and push economic growth, was declared partly unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in July 2014.
No heavy charges of graft and malversation were filed by the Ombudsman against Abad. Aside from Aquino, the Ombudsman cleared Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos of any accountability in the implementation of the P72-billion program from 2011 to 2013.
Belgica also said he was planning to file an impeachment complaint against Morales, involving DAP as well as the deaths of 44 police commandos in the botched Mamasapano raid in January 2015, wherein Aquino was also cleared of any wrongdoing.
Morales was unfazed by the disbarment complaint Friday but said she had yet to read about the grounds for the complaint.
“Anyway, everyone is at liberty to file a complaint. Being charged is part of the territory. I am ready to meet head-on any complaint, anytime, anywhere. Wish them luck,” she said.
Morales also assured the public that she would “not be sidetracked.”
WITH A REPORT FROM REINA C. TOLENTINO