MANILA — Former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol III filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to order Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to vacate immediately her post for supposedly overstaying by five years.
Vitangcol, who is being prosecuted by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan over alleged anomaly in the MRT 3 project from the previous administration, asked the High Court to declare that the term of office of Morales had expired on Nov. 30, 2012.
Morales replaced Merceditas Gutierrez, who resigned on May 6, 2011 from post to avoid an impeachment trial in the Senate, leaving an unexpired term until Nov. 30, 2012.
Vitangcol said the intent of the law was for the successor of Gutierrez to serve the remainder of her term only, not for a fresh term of seven years.
He asked the SC to declare Section 8 (3) of Republic Act 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989) as unconstitutional for contravening the legislative intent that in case of vacancy, the new appointee should only serve the unexpired term of his or her predecessor.
“Legislative intent is part and parcel of the law. It is the controlling factor in interpreting a statute. In fact, any interpretation that runs counter with the legislative intent is unacceptable and invalid,” read the petition filed last Oct. 13, 2017.
“It is in this respect that the intent of the legislature in deliberating House Bill 13646, which eventually became RA 6770, finds relevance. The term of office of the appointed Ombudsman, in case of vacancy, in Section 8, paragraph(3) of R.A. No. 6770 can be seen in the exchange of discussions between Congressmen Tito Espinosa, Antonio Abaya, Raul Roco, and Isidro Zarraga (Committee on Justice Chairman).
Interestingly, the sponsor of the bill, Congressman Abaya, intended that the new appointee shall serve only the unexpired term of his predecessor,” it pointed out.
As a result of a void term in office, Vitangcol argued that all orders, decisions and resolutions “rendered personally” by Morales from December 1, 2012 should be declared null and void.
“Affected cases should be remanded to the Deputy Ombudsman for proper disposition, pending the appointment of a new Ombudsman,” the petition read.
It was Morales who approved the filing of graft charges before the Sandiganbayan against Vitangcol over his alleged attempt to extort $30 million from a Czech light rail vehicles supplier and irregularities in the transit system’s interim maintenance contract during his stint as MRT chief.
It was the second petition in SC assailing the occupancy of Morales in the Ombudsman post.
Last June, lawyer Rey Ifurung filed a similar petition seeking to declare the top positions at the Office of the Ombudsman vacant as the current occupants allegedly have been overstaying in their posts.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte made a similar call when he asked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to resign with him. (PNA)