Impeachment case readied vs ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines - Another impeachment complaint is in the works – this time against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Former Manila councilor Greco Belgica, who supported the presidential bid of then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte but lost in the 2016 senatorial race, announced yesterday that he is preparing an impeachment case against Morales.

He made the announcement after filing a disbarment petition against Morales with the Supreme Court for clearing former president Benigno Aquino lll of any liability in the implementation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), an economic stimulus program.

“We are preparing a complaint. I know that some other people, some other groups are also preparing an impeachment case against her,” Belgica told reporters.

Aquino appointed Morales as ombudsman.

Belgica urged the SC to revoke the license of Morales as a lawyer on the ground of supposed violation of her Lawyer’s Oath and the Canon of Professional Responsibility for clearing Aquino of any liability for the DAP.

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In a resolution released early this month, Morales approved the filing of a case of usurpation of legislative powers against former budget secretary Florencio Abad for the issuance of a national budget circular which paved the way for implementation of DAP.

Morales said Abad changed the definition of savings, a power that belongs to Congress, by impounding unused appropriations and diverting them to DAP.

But Morales dismissed the charges of graft, technical malversation and usurpation of legislative powers against Aquino and former budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos. She also dismissed the graft and technical malversation charges against Abad.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, one of the complainants in the DAP case, has appealed Morales’ ruling.

“The principal is accountable for the misuse of funds as the alter ego. In fact, Aquino’s signature is on the DAP memo,” Zarate said.

In his disbarment complaint, Belgica said Morales violated the Lawyer’s Oath as she supposedly deprived the Filipino people of their right to due process by absolving Aquino of any criminal liability in DAP, when the latter was the principal accused in the complaint.

Belgica said Morales also violated the Canon of Professional Responsibility for her supposed failure to “uphold the integrity and dignity” of the legal profession.

“Taking into consideration the fact that the former president appointed her, her conduct of favoring the former president adversely reflected on her fitness to practice law,” Belgica’s complaint read.

Belgica considers Morales as “public enemy no. 1 because it is turning out that she is the protector of all criminals who are in offices. Maybe Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is no 2.”

Trillanes is one of the staunchest critics of Duterte and his bloody drug war marked by reports of summary killings.

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption also earlier warned Morales that it may file an impeachment case against her should she clear Aquino of multiple murder charges in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano incident that left over 60 people dead.

Morales: Wish them luck

Morales remains unfazed amid impeachment threats, saying that being charged is part of her tough job as the ombudsman.

Morales said she has yet to receive a copy of Belgica’s complaint, but said she is ready to face the charges.

“I have yet to know the grounds of the complaint... I am ready to meet head-on any complaint, anytime, anywhere. Wish them luck,” Morales said in a statement.

“Anyway, everyone is at liberty to file a complaint. Being charged is part of the territory… Ombudsman Morales assures the public that she will not be sidetracked. She remains focused on her work,” she added.  – With Elizabeth Marcelo, Evelyn Macairan