Press Release
January 23, 2007

Drilon: Only courts can dismiss elective officials;
Puno bluffing on threat of more dismissals

Contrary to the claim of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, only the courts, and not the Office of the Ombudsman, can order the dismissal of any elective government executive from office, Liberal Party President, Sen. Franklin Drilon said today.

In a statement, Drilon pointed out that the provisions of Section 60 of the Local Government Code of 1991 clearly states that "an elective official may be removed from office only by order of the proper court."

This requirement on the dismissal from office and other sanctions against elective government officials, Drilon added, was upheld in a number of Supreme Court cases such as the "Pablico versus Villapando case" wherein the tribunal stated "the power to remove erring elective local official from service is lodge exclusively with the court."

Drilon, who is chairman of the Senate Finance and Public Order committees, said Puno was "either bluffing or was utterly misinformed" when he announced last week that more mayors and governors facing corruption charges before the Office of the Ombudsman could face dismissal from office in the coming weeks.

"The threats of dismissal or suspension on local officials being dangled by the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) must be part of a maliciously-conceived political strategy of the Arroyo administration designed to intimidate officials who do not kowtow to President Arroyo. The campaign period for the May elections has apparently started," Drilon said.

In a privilege speech Monday, Drilon decried that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez acted "without or in excess of jurisdiction and with grave abuse of discretion" when she order the dismissal and permanent disqualification from holding public office Iloilo Governor Neil Tupas allegedly on graft charges.

Drilon also cited the case of then Pampanga Governor Lito Lapid versus Court of Appeals where the High Tribunal ruled that even the punishment of one-year suspension imposed on Lapid was "not immediately executory pending an appeal."

In his speech, Drilon urged his Senate colleagues to investigate the claim of the DILG that the Ombudsman can dismiss elected officials. "Does the Ombudsman have the power to dismiss and impose the penalty of dismissal and penalty of perpetual disqualification? Does the Ombudsman have the right to direct the DILG to implement its dismissal order knowing fully well that the local official has a period within which to file a motion for reconsideration or to file an appeal?" Drilon asked.

In his speech, Drilon also belied the claim of Justice Secretary Gonzalez that he did not have a hand in the dismissal order of Tupas. He noted that it was Gonzalez who ordered an investigation on the graft charges against Tupas even if the DOJ did not have jurisdiction over administrative cases involving elective local executives.

"Perhaps, the acting Justice Secretary was only trying to varnish his image and hide the sordid truth in a veneer of lies. Because the truth is, he has always been involved in the political harassment of Governor Tupas," Drilon said.

"Have we ever heard of a Secretary of Justice conducting investigations on administrative cases against local officials? Is this not the mandate of the DILG." He added.

Drilon also noted that it was Gonzalez who announced to media that Tupas would be dismissed by the Ombudsman. "What is puzzling in this case was the haste at which the Ombudsman's orders were executed by the DILG and the conspicuous involvement of the acting Justice Secretary. What is even more revolting is the fact that although it is not his mandate to investigate anti-graft complaints, he assumed the investigation of these cases. And even more repulsive is his vigorous denial of his involvement," Drilon further said.

In his speech, also condemned the siege by policemen of Iloilo Provincial Capitol which he said only reminded the Filipino people of the abuses and atrocities of the Martial Law regime in the 1970s.

He called on Puno and Gonzales to resign, saying the brutality and excessive use of force by the police during the siege at the Iloilo capital was uncalled for.

"Since it was a showcase of police brutality that provokes outrage and condemnation all over the country, those responsible must tender their resignation as soon as possible. Specifically, we call for the resignation of acting Secretary Gonzalez, acting Secretary Puno, Chief Superintendent Wilfredo Dulay and the members of the Regional Mobile Group," Drilon said. It is a shame that after the much-touted successful holding of the ASEAN Summit, and Malacañang 's widely publicized commitment to democracy and promotion of peace and security in the ASEAN region, an ignominious event such as the Iloilo Provincial Capitol siege took place."

"Was it a manifestation of an inherent derision for the rule of law and disrespect for institutions by the President's men?" Drilon asked. "A month from now, we shall celebrate the 21st anniversary of the EDSA people power revolution. But it is a shame that the ugly face of authoritarian rule is showing in all political spaces. Moreover, it is a shame that we marked the 6th anniversary of EDSA Dos this month, enormously disappointed by the President's failure to keep her promise of instituting good governance. This is a season of shame."

News Latest News Feed