Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales suffered a setback at the Supreme Court (SC) after the tribunal refused to stop the Court of Appeals (CA) from proceeding with its grant of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the preventive suspension of embattled Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay by Morales’s office.
Instead, the SC issued an order mandating the CA and Binay to file their comment to a petition of the Ombudsman on or before April 6.
The SC held a special en banc session on Thursday on an urgent petition of Morales to halt the CA from serving the TRO in favor of Binay and stopping its proceedings as well.
It will start its Holy Week break on Monday, will not have its regular en banc session on Tuesday and will begin its session in Baguio City on April 5. Hence, the SC decided to hold the special en banc hearing on the Ombudsman petition after the special en banc session in the morning on results of the 2014 Bar examinations.
With the High Court allowing the CA to serve the TRO, the appellate court may proceed with hearings on March 30 and 31.
In a 31-page petition for certiorari and prohibition filed on Wednesday, Morales asked the SC to block the CA 6th Division from continuing with its hearings on the Binay case scheduled for March 30 and 31.
Morales had accused the CA of grave abuse of discretion in issuing the TRO in favor of Binay and in mandating the Ombudsman to explain Binay’s plea to cite her in contempt for clear defiance of a lawful court order.
Despite Morales having been a former SC associate justice, she insisted that she can defy the CA ruling because the appellate court’s order has y become moot and academic since Vice Mayor Romulo Pena already sits as Makati City acting mayor.
“This petition [of Morales]is triggered by respondent Court of Appeals’ unwarranted intervention in what should have otherwise been a regular administrative proceeding… [t]he intervention of the Court of Appeals has resulted in chaos and total confusion of the people of Makati and those transacting official business with the city government,” it was pointed out.
Morales said the Office of the Ombudsman is an independent constitutional body that must be protected from the “unconstitutional interference of respondent Court of Appeals.”
“The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent body created by the 1987 Constitution to curb corruption and abuse in government. It was deliberately ‘constitutionalized’ and placed outside the ambit of the political branches of government to… free it from ‘the insidious tentacles of politics,’” the petition read.
“[T]he preventive suspension imposed by the Office of the Ombudsman on respondent Binay is not only permissible under the law but necessary given the prevailing circumstances of the case. The suspension order was dictated by prudence and the need to preserve the integrity of the ongoing administrative adjudication,” it said.
Morales noted that she is an impeachable officer and cannot be subjected to contempt proceedings, since it is criminal in nature.
“As an impeachable officer, petitioner can only be subjected to criminal proceedings after she steps down from office. Otherwise, the constitutional guarantee against her removal from office except through the extraordinary process of impeachment would be rendered nugatory .
. . Such immunity, common to all impeachable officers, is but another manifestation of the intent of the 1987 Constitution to make the Office of the Ombudsman a truly independent body insulated from politics,” it was pointed out.
The Senate blue ribbon committee has ordered an inquiry into transactions and assets of Binay on the basis of testimonies of Mercado, Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso VI.
Mercado, Bondal and Enciso filed plunder raps against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son Junjun before the Office of the Ombudsman.
They filed the complaint on the basis of their expose about the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2, an 11-story structure that cost P2.3 billion.