Filtered By: Topstories

Duterte barrage vs. CJ, Ombudsman hurts counterbalancing of powers

An alliance of 20 lawyers groups on Friday condemned President Rodrigo Duterte’s “brazen assaults” against the Chief Justice and the Ombudsman, saying his actions undermine their constitutionally-mandated function to safeguard checks and balances in government.

“We, the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), denounce the brazen assaults against democratic institutions of President Rodrigo Duterte, which undermine the independent bodies mandated by the constitution to maintain the system of checks and balances in the government,” the group said in a statement.

It traced and denounced Duterte’s moves and tirades against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, including allegations of corruption and threats of impeachment and investigation.

“These acts deliberately undermine the independence of the institutions whose duties primarily consist in upholding public trust by cleansing the government's ranks of graft and corruption and maintaining checks and balances so that tyranny would not arise from any branch of the government again,” said ALG.

It also echoed the concerns of Dr. Pacifico Agabin, a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law.

A system of checks and balances is achieved through the separation of powers of the three equal branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary.

The group lamented the fact that the Chief Justice and the Ombudsman receive attacks directly from Duterte himself.

“The 1987 Constitution puts impeachment as a mechanism to make top officials accountable. However, in this case, it is apparent that the attacks and threats of impeachment against the Chief Justice and the Ombudsman come directly from the top official himself, President Duterte,” it said.

Moreover, it said said president’s attacks and moves against Ombudsman Morales and her subordinates are “clear signs that these are counter-attacks to intimidate the Office that is probing his wealth.”

After Morales ordered a probe into the first family’s wealth, Duterte threatened to file an impeachment complaint against the Ombudsman, announced that he would set up a commission to investigate alleged corruption in the anti-graft body, and made threats to arrest officials who would not show up in hearings of the said commission.

Morales has stood her ground and said, "Sorry but this office shall not be intimidated.” 

On the other hand, Duterte also threatened to lodge an impeachment complaint against CJ Sereno, who is already facing one after Duterte ally lawyer Larry Gadon’s complaint was cleared by the House Committee on Justice for sufficiency in grounds.

The Chief Justice, professing innocence, maintained that the truth is on her side.

However, the ALG clarified they were not siding with the personalities associated with these independent institutions—Sereno and Morales themselves—but with what they represent: “safeguards towards a balanced and just government free from corruption and despotism.”

The group said Sereno and Morales should and will, in accordance with the law, answer the charges hurled against them, but that Duterte “still continues to engage with word war and refuses to submit himself to investigation.”

“We reiterate the Ombudsman's statement that, if the president has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear,” it added.

The ALG also urged the members of Congress and of the media to fulfill their functions in accordance with the Filipino public’s expectations of them.

For the Congress, the group said, “The Filipino people count on them to be circumspect in accordance with their sworn duties and to heed the public outcry in bolstering our governmental system of checks and balances.

And for the media, the group said, “We call on the media and civil society to intensify their vigilance, lead the people, and be the vanguards of truth and knowledge in these trying times.” —Nicole-Anne Lagrimas/LBG, GMA News