Duterte forms body empowered to probe presidential appointees "outside executive branch"
Making true his warning to the Office of the Ombudsman, President Rodrigo Duterte has created an anti-graft commission, whose jurisdiction, powers and functions include the lifestyle checks and fact-finding inquiries of presidential appointees, including those "outside the executive branch" of the government.
Executive Order No. 43, which Duterte signed on Oct. 4, 2017, provides for the formation of the "Presidential Anti-Graft Commission and Providing for its Powers, Duties and Functions, and for Other Purposes. The order shall take effect 15 days after its publication.
The Commission, which is under the Office of the President, will directly assist the President in investigating and/or hearing administrative cases primarily involving graft and corruption against all presidential appointees and to perform such other similar duties as he may direct.
Section 5 (c) of the EO read that upon the instructions of the President, or motu propio, the Commission "may also conduct lifestyle checks and fact-finding inquiries on acts or omissions of all presidential appointees, including those outside the Executive Branch of government, which may be violative of the Constitution, or contrary to law, rules and regulations, and/or constitute serious misconduct tantamount to betrayal of public trust.
"On the basis of such fact-finding inquiries, the Commission shall submit its report and recommended courses of action to the President," the EO added.
In a text message to reporters, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea Jr said the President, as appointing authority is not prohibited by law or by the Constitution to conduct lifestyle checks on his own appointees, "but will not usurp the power to discipline certain independent constitutional officers such as the Ombudsman and judicial officials."
Medialdea said whatever the findings of the probe to officials outside the executive branch will be submitted to the proper disciplining authority. He cited for instance the Congress, which could act for possible impeachment of those impeachable officials.
Duterte recently warned that he would form a commission to investigate the officials of the Office of the Ombudsman, a constitutional body, in the wake of the anti-graft body's own probe on the alleged hidden wealth of the President and his family.
Early this week, two separate complaints were filed before the Office of the Executive Secretary against Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang, the head of the fact-finding team investigating Duterte, Deputy Ombudsman for Midnanao Rodolfo Elman and members of the investigation team allegedly for betrayal of of public trust and graft and corruption.
The Commission shall be composed of a chairman and four commissioners to be appointed by the President. Majority of the members of the Commission shall be from the Philippine Bar and must have been engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines for at least five years.
It shall also have a Secretariat which shall provide technical and administrative support to the Commission.
The Commission could also investigate other presidential appointees in the executive branch and any of its agencies or instrumentalities occupying the position of Assistant Regional Director or an equivalent rank and higher, otherwise classified as Salary Grade 26 and higher under Republic Act No. 6758 or the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989.
While the Commission could probe on other presidential appointees moto propio, it may also investigate presidential appointees in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, but only upon the instruction of the President, according to the EO.
"Upon the filing of a complaint or charge, the Commission may recommend to the President the issuance of an order of preventive suspension, when the circumstances of the investigation warrant the same, such as when the charges are punishable with removal from the service or when respondent's continued stay in office will prejudice the fair determination of the case," the EO said.
The preventive suspension shall continue until the case is terminated by the Commission, but in no case shall exceed 90 days, except when the delay is due to the fault, negligence, or action of the respondent, in which case the period of such delay shall not be counted in computing the period of preventive suspension, it added.
"The resignation or retirement of the public officer under investigation shall not divest the Commission of jurisdiction to continue the investigation or hearing thereof," it said.
The Commission may tap the assistance of any law enforcement agency or other agencies of the government. It can also engage the services of qualified consultants or deputies from the public and private sectors.
The body and its personnel cannot disclose or make public any record or information in connection with any investigation when such disclosure will deprive the respondent of his right to a fair and impartial investigation of the case.
But the EO said all disclosures of the Commission relating to an administrative case, complaint or inquiry shall be balanced, fair, and accurate.
The Department of Budget and Management will determine the initial budget of the Commission, which is tasked to promulgate rules and regulations.
The succeeding budget of the Commission shall be incorporated in the budget proposal of the OP. Celerina Monte/DMS