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Another look at the condonation doctrine SC scrapped in Junjun Binay’s case

12:02 AM December 22, 2015

I agree with the Supreme Court decision in Office of the Ombudsman vs Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., which abandoned the 56-year-long condonation or Aguinaldo doctrine in administrative cases. I also agree with the decision that the new doctrine should be proactive in application, which is how our penal and other substantive laws, including administrative laws, and jurisprudence generally operate.

The principle against retroactivity is meant to protect vested rights and to preserve trust in our judicial system, among other considerations. This principle of the law calls to mind a kindred ancient maxim which declares that “historically, the customs of the law are as binding as the law.”

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In her column “Where have the SC justices been?” Solita Monsod hit the nail on the head when she noted that in striking down the condonation principle, it took the high court 56 years to accept the reality that “Misconduct committed by an elective official is easily covered up, and is almost unknown to the electorate when they cast their votes” (Opinion, 11/21/15). Monsod acknowledged Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales for pointing out the silliness of the condonation doctrine in the Supreme Court before whom she “rushed for succor” to nullify the temporary restraining order and eventual writ of preliminary injunction granted by the Court of Appeals to Junjun Binay over her preventive suspension order.

All is well, except that it amazes me why Morales did not realize the folly of this doctrine, as Monsod noted, all the years she was sitting in the Court. It may be recalled that in Atty. Vicente E. Salumbides and Glenda Araña vs Office of the Ombudsman, et al., the Supreme Court en banc, in its decision penned by no less than then Justice (now Ombudsman) Morales, upheld the doctrine of condonation. Citing Lizares vs Hechanova and other leading cases, Morales concluded that the case had become moot because the “herein petitioner having been duly elected, is no longer amenable to administrative sanctions.”

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On a related issue in the same subject decision, the high court upheld the power of the Court of Appeals to review and stop administrative orders of the Ombudsman on cases against officials on the ground that Section 14 of Republic Act No. 6770 (Ombudsman Act) invoked by Morales was ineffective as Congress did not consult the Court in approving it. While it is breathing a fresh air of wisdom, I propose that the Court also strike down as unconstitutional the provision under Section 7, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman, as amended by Administrative Order No. 07. This rule makes its decision in administrative cases immediately executory even pending appeal; and the Court should also revert to its previous doctrine in Office of the Ombudsman vs Pendatun G. Laja and Court of Appeals, which held that an appeal timely filed in disciplinary cases where the penalty imposed is more than a light one will stay the implementation of the Ombudsman decision.

After all, the Ombudsman rule on the immediately executory character of its decisions is already harmonized, nay tempered, and rightly so, by Section 12, Rule 43 of the Revised Rules of Court. Besides, the Laja doctrine is more in accord with logic, fairness and equity; if resurrected, it could be another impelling reason to abandon the condonation doctrine and be a counterweight against baseless, harassment and purely politically motivated suits.

—DIOSDADO V. CALONGE, [email protected]

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TAGS: condonation doctrine, Junjun Binay, Supreme Court
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