Press Release
February 20, 2017

Drilon: Let Ombudsman handle De Lima case

The Ombudsman, not the Secretary of Justice, has jurisdiction over Senator Leila De Lima, according to Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin M. Drilon.

"The Office of the Ombudsman has plenary authority under the Constitution, its Charter and existing jurisprudence to investigate any public official for illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient acts," said Drilon, a lawyer and former justice secretary.

"The law is clear: it is the Ombudsman that has jurisdiction over a public official or employee. No amount of tweaking can justify the decision of the Department of Justice to file the case against Senator Leila De Lima before a regional trial court and not with the Ombudsman," said Drilon.

"We should therefore allow the Ombudsman to perform its mandate and let the Ombudsman decide whether it should take cognizance of the case," he stressed.

Drilon said Section 15 of the Ombudsman Law (RA 6770) grants the Ombudsman the power to investigate and prosecute on its own or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient.

He emphasized that even the Supreme Court, in a case of the Office of the Ombudsman v. Ruben Enoc, et al., asserted the authority of the Ombudsman when it ruled "the power to investigate and prosecute granted by law to the Ombudsman is plenary and unqualified."

In its decision, the Supreme Court clarified that "the clause any illegal act or omission of any public official is broad enough to embrace any crime committed by a public officer of employee."

"The grant of this authority does not necessarily imply the exclusion from its jurisdiction of cases involving public officers and employees cognizable by other courts," said Drilon quoting the Supreme Court decision.

It should also be emphasized that the Supreme Court stated "the powers granted by the legislature to the Ombudsman are very broad and encompass all kinds of malfeasance, misfeasance and non-feasance committed by public officers and employees during their tenure of office.

The former justice secretary said that even the Constitution is crystal clear in this regard, citing Section 12, Article XI, which underscores that the Ombudsman and his deputies, as protectors of the people, shall act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the government.

"Section 13 of the same article states that the Ombudsman shall investigate on its own, or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public official, employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient.

"Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II is a known nemesis of Senator De Lima. Prudence dictates that the case against Senator Leila De Lima should have been filed in the Ombudsman, and not before a Regional Trial Court, to prevent perceptions of vindictiveness and partiality.

"His department's decision to refer the case to the regional trial court is unprecedented, flawed and malicious," he concluded.

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