Saturday, September 24, 2011

COA V. HINAMPAS, G.R. NO. 158672

The major issue which these five (5) consolidated petitions for review raise in common is whether or not the disciplinary power of the Ombudsman is indeed merely recommendatory in nature, as ruled by the CA.

The answer, as laid out by recent jurisprudence, is a resounding NO. As this Court has already held in Ledesma v. CA[7] and Estarija v. Ranada,[8] the so-called Tapiador “doctrine,” upon which the assailed CA decisions are based, is mere obiter.

Tapiador takes note of the following Section of the Constitution:

Section 13. The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the following powers, functions, and duties:

xxx xxx xxx

(3) Direct the officer concerned to take appropriate action against a public official or employee at fault, and recommend his removal, suspension, demotion, fine, censure, or prosecution, and ensure compliance therewith. (Emphasis supplied)

The word “recommend” must be taken in conjunction with the phrase “and ensure compliance therewith.” In Ledesma v. CA, supra, we had this to say:

x x x [A] cursory reading of Tapiador reveals that the main point of the case was the failure of the complainant therein to present substantial evidence to prove the charges of the administrative case. The statement that made reference to the power of the Ombudsman is, at best, merely an obiter dictum and, as it is unsupported by sufficient explanation, is susceptible to varying interpretations, as what precisely is before us in this case. Hence, it cannot be cited as a doctrinal declaration of this Court nor is it safe from judicial examination.[9] (Emphasis supplied)

In Estarija v. Ranada,[10] we reiterated our pronouncements in Ledesma and went on to categorically state:

x x x [T]he Constitution does not restrict the powers of the Ombudsman in Section 13, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, but allows the Legislature to enact a law that would spell out the powers of the Ombudsman. Through the enactment of Rep. Act No. 6770, specifically Section 15, par. 3, the lawmakers gave the Ombudsman such powers to sanction erring officials and employees, except members of Congress, and the Judiciary. To conclude, we hold that Sections 15, 21, 22 and 25 of Republic Act No. 6770 are constitutionally sound. The powers of the Ombudsman are not merely recommendatory. His office was given teeth to render this constitutional body not merely functional but also effective. Thus, we hold that under Republic Act No. 6770 and the 1987 Constitution, the Ombudsman has the constitutional power to directly remove from government service an erring public official other than a member of Congress and the Judiciary. (Emphasis supplied)

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