MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday did not issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the Court of Appeals (CA) with its proceedings and the power of its TRO on the preventive suspension imposed by the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) against Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay.
This after the SC en banc held its special en banc session on Thursday on the urgent petition of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to stop the CA with its 60-day TRO in favor of Binay and stop their proceedings as well.
The “immediately executory” six-month preventive suspension order issued by the Ombudsman against Binay and 22 others was for the plunder and graft cases filed against them in connection with the alleged “overpriced” Makati City Hall Building II.
The SC will have its Holy Week break starting Holy Monday and will not have its regular en banc session on Holy Tuesday.
It will start its summer session in Baguio City on April 5, 2015.
Hence, the SC decided to hold a special en banc hearing on the Ombudsman petition after the special en banc session on Thursday morning on the Bar exams results.
The SC refused to issue a TRO against the CA, hence, the CA may proceed with the hearing of the Binay petition on March 30 and 31, 2015.
Instead, the SC just issued an order mandating the CA and Binay to file their respective comments to the petition of Morales on or before April 6, 2015.
In a 31-page petition for certiorari and prohibition filed on Wednesday, Morales asked the SC to stop the CA Sixth Division from continuing with its hearing on the Binay case scheduled on March 30 and 31, 2015.
Morales accused the CA of grave abuse of discretion in issuing the order that issued a TRO stopping the Ombudsman preventive suspension order against Binay and the order mandating the Ombudsman to explain on Binay’s petition to cite Morales in contempt for clear defiance to a lawful court order.
Morales insisted that she can defy the CA ruling because the latter’s order has already become moot and academic since Vice Mayor Romulo Pena has already sat as Acting Mayor.
“This petition 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,” Morales said.
She argued that the Ombudsman is an independent constitutional body which 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 said.
“[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,” Morales said.
The Ombudsman argued 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,” the petition said.