SC junks disbarment raps vs Ombudsman Morales

MANILA-- The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the disbarment case against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio � Morales filed by former Manila City Councilor and defeated senatorial candidate May 2016 elections Greco Belgica.

SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive was issued following Tuesday's regular en banc session of the magistrates.

Te said the Court unanimously dismissed Belgica's complaint for lack of merit.

Belgica alleged that the Ombudsman violated the Lawyer's Oath, Rule 6.01, Canon 7 , and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, when she approved a Resolution in OMB-C-C15-0386, OMB-C-A-15-0359, OMB-C-C-0283, OMB-C-A-16-0245 dated March 3, 2017 which, among others, dismissed the criminal and administrative charges arising from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) against former President Benigno S. Aquino III without giving the reason therefor.

He claimed that the Ombudsman lacked integrity and was biased when she dismissed the complaint against Aquino. He also claimed that he was not seeking to disbar or suspend the Ombudsman during her incumbency nor to disqualify her from her office during her term; he prayed that, in the event the complaint is resolved before her term ends on July 26, 2018, that the imposition of any penalty of disbarment be deferred until after the expiration of her term but that if the complaint is resolved after her term expires that she be disbarred.

The high court noted that in the cases of Lecaroz v. Sandiganbayan (G.R. No. 56384 March 22, 1984), Cuenco v. Fernan (A.M. No. 3135 Feb. 17, 1988), Re: Raul M. Gonzales (A.M. No. 88-4 5433, April 15, 1988), Jarque v. Desierto (A.C. No. 4509, Dec. 5, 1995), and Lastimosa-Dalawampu v. Deputy Ombudsman Mojica et al. (A.C. No. 4683, Aug. 6, 1997), they repeatedly stated that a member of the Bar who holds office that may only be be removed by impeachment cannot be charged with disbarment during his or her incumbency.

The Ombudsman is part of the short list of public officers who may be removed only by impeachment, the high court said.

Noting Belgica's manifestation that he was aware of these cases but that he was not seeking the Ombudsman's disbarment during her term, the Court said that his complaint seeks to charge the Ombudsman with violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility and ultimately seeks her disbarment.

The Court noted that Belgica's logic � that the Ombudsman may be charged with disbarment during her incumbency but the penalty may only be imposed after her term ends � is faulty and clearly contravenes the established prinicple that the Ombudsman, who may be removed from office only by impeachment, cannot be charged with disbarment during her incumbency.

In a 12-page complaint, Belgica asked the SC to disbar Morales for violation of the Lawyer's Oath and the Canon of Professional Responsibility after she dismissed the graft and technical malversation case against former President Benigno Aquino III in connection with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

"By 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," read the complaint.

"Hence, the Ombudsman violated her lawyer's oath when she deprived them of their right to procedural due process, a right enshrined in our Constitution and mandated by law," it added.

Morales cleared Aquino and former Budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos of technical malversation, usurpation of legislative powers and graft charges for the alleged illegal implementation of PHP72 billion DAP in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Only Abad was found liable for usurpation of legislative powers. But other charges against Abad were dismissed.

Belgica said Aquino should also be made liable for the circular because a provision there states that it bore the approval of the president.

She failed to perform her primary duty as a lawyer engaged in the public prosecution because she did not see to it that justice is done to the detriment of the Filipino people, Belgica said in his complaint.

Aquino appointed Morales as Ombudsman when she retired as Supreme Court associate justice in 2011.

Morales is set to retire on July 25, 2018.

Source: Philippines News Agency