Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Monday recalled the suspension of nine mayors, three vice mayors and 60 other local officials accused of grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty for allowing the operation of open dumps within their areas.
Martires issued separate orders, withdrawing the one-year suspension without of mayors Flaviano Balgos Jr. of Nueva Vizcaya’s Bambang, Gerry Jaucian of Albay’s Daraga, Nathaniel Gertos of Leyte’s Bato, Norman Ong of Palawan’s Rizal, Cielo Krisel Luistro of Albay’s Tabaco City, Cherlie Sampal of Albay’s Polangui, Emilia Lourdes Poblete of Cavite’s Silang, Melandres de Sagun of Cavite’s Trece Martires and Ma. Kristine dela Fuente of Bataan’s Abucay.
“In view of the ongoing review of the Office of the Ombudsman of all environmental cases, the decision is hereby recalled. As such, the order suspending from the service without pay for one year is withdrawn,” the order read.
“Considering that the Office of the Ombudsman has not received information from the Department of the Interior and Local Government as to the implementation of the decision, the DILG or his duly authorized representative is directed to furnish this office of this information within 10 days from receipt hereof so that this matter can be included in the review of this case.”
A small town or city could not afford P13 million to be able to close down an open dump and another P50 million for the construction and operation of a sanitary or controlled landfill, Martires said.
The Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 is “economically not feasible” to be enforced on fifth or sixth class municipalities, he said.
In 2016, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ National Solid Waste Management Commission filed complaints against the local officials before then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
The Office of the Ombudsman directed the suspension of the local officials and asked the DILG secretary to implement the order.
Martires called on the lawmakers to revisit RA 9003.
Earlier, he told the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutors to refrain from filing suspension against officials facing charges before the Sandiganbayan.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday blocked its own Office of the Special Prosecutors to file an appeal for cases involving the acquittal of government officials.
Martires issued Office Circular No. 18 stipulating “consistent with the constitutional provision on double jeopardy, the Office shall no longer challenge the dismissal of cases/quashal of information and judgment of acquittal, either through a motion to dismiss, a demurrer to evidence or by a decision, rendered by the trial courts or the Sandiganbayan.”
“Decisions of the Court of Appeals dismissing the administrative cases shall no longer be challenged. This includes, either in criminal or administrative cases, the filing of a motion for reconsideration on the main case and the filing of petitions under either Rule 45 of Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court,” the order read.
“By way of exception, the filing of the motions for reconsideration and petitions for certiorari shall strictly be based on grounds that: (a) the Office of the Ombudsman, in administrative cases, or the People of the Philippines, in criminal cases, was clearly deprived of due process, and (b) there was a mistrial,” Martires said.
The Sept. 24 office circular shall take effect immediately and amend Office Circular No. 3, series of 2013, Office Circular No. 7, series of 2015, Item 7 of Memorandum dated March 15, 2017, and all other issuances inconsistent herewith.
Martires, a former Supreme Court associate justice, vowed to put a stop to the practice of the prosecutors in filing a plea with the High Court.
“What is our interest [here, to send a person to jail who has already been absolved of any wrongdoing? The law on double jeopardy has been there since time immemorial. The filing of an appeal is no longer allowed on the accused who has been acquitted,” he said.
He invoked Article 3, Section 21 of the Bill of Rights under the 1987 Constitution stipulating “no person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.”
With the issuance of Office Circular No. 18, Martires said he could get all the flak.
He, however, said he could take all the criticisms against him so long as he could correct the wrong.
“At the end of the day, you will realize that I am right and that you are wrong,” he said.