(BULLETIN) By GENALYN D. KABILING – President Benigno S. Aquino III dismissed Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III (photo) for mishandling the administrative case against a former policeman who held Hong Kong tourists hostage on August 23, 2010, Malacañang announced on Friday.

The Office of the President (OP) found Gonzalez guilty of gross neglect of duty and gross misconduct in the performance of duty based on the recommendation of Palace lawyers who reviewed the findings of an Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC).

Gonzalez became the first public official to be penalized by the OP since the government botched the bus hijacking that left eight Hong Kong nationals dead last year. The gunman – Rolando Mendoza, a former police Chief Inspector – was shot dead during the bloody police siege in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

“This decision reflects this administration’s commitment to hold those responsible for the hostage-taking incident accountable,” Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said. “Those of us who serve government must be cognizant of the fact that people are affected by our failure to fulfill our responsibilities. In this case, lives were not only affected; they were lost,” he added.

In the 15-page decision issued last Thursday, the OP said Gonzalez committed neglect of duty when he allowed an “inordinate and unjustified delay” in the resolution of the motion for reconsideration filed by Mendoza on his dismissal from police service.

It took nine months for Gonzalez to act on Mendoza’s appeal, which, the Palace said, was already “a flagrant disregard” of the Office of the Ombudsman’s Rules and Procedures. Under the Ombudsman’s rules, a motion for reconsideration must be acted upon within five days from the submission of the documents.

Gonzalez also committed gross misconduct for showing undue interest in taking over the administrative case filed against Mendoza that was then pending investigation with the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service.

The OP also said the delay in the resolution of Mendoza’s appeal was “all the more unjustified” because there was no opposition filed against his motion for reconsideration.

“The circumstances surrounding the charges of gross neglect of duty and gross misconduct lent credence to Mendoza’s accusation during the hostage-taking incident that Gonzalez was extorting P150,000 from him in exchange for a favorable decision,” Ochoa said.

He said gross neglect of duty and gross misconduct that amounted to arbitrary and tyrannical exercise of authority and betrayal of public trust are grounds for the dismissal of Gonzalez from service.

He added that the President has the power to discipline Gonzalez “even to the extent of meting out the supreme administrative penalty of dismissal” based on the Constitution and Republic Act No. 6670, or the Ombudsman Act of 1989.

Gonzalez has denied the allegations he had asked for a P150,000 bribe from Mendoza to dismiss a case against him.

Mendoza was dismissed from service, along with four others, for supposedly extorting money from a hotel chef in 2008.

…but OMB won't comply By JUN RAMIREZ April 1, 2011, 8:23pm MANILA DAILY BULLETIN

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) will not implement the decision of the Office of the President dismissing from service Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III in relation to the August 23, 2010, hostage-taking incident in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

In a statement, Ombudsman Spokesman Jose de Jesus said the anti-graft body has already taken cognizance of the case of Gonzales after the Ombudsman’s Internal Affairs Board (IAB) acquitted him from case.

De Jesus stressed that the action of the Ombudsman was in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989.

He said the law decreed that the anti-graft body is an institution independent from other government offices, including the Office of the President.

Quoting portion of Section 21 of the RA 6770, De Jesus said the "Ombudsman has disciplinary authority over all appointive officials of the government… except over officials who may be removed only by impeachment, or over members of Congress and the judiciary.”

Likewise, Section 8 of the Ombudsman Act states: “(1) In accordance with the provisions of Article XI of the Constitution, the Ombudsman may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. (2) A Deputy or the Special Prosecutor, may be removed from office by the President for any of the grounds provided for the removal of the Ombudsman, and after due process.”

De Jesus pointed out that the OMB it considered the culpability of Gonzalez in the hostage-taking incident as legally final and closed after he was cleared by the IAB of any criminal and administrative liabilities in connection with the tragedy.

He said Gonzalez may elevate the Malacañang verdict before the Supreme Court because the decision concerns a question of law.

Gonzalez is Deputy Ombudsman for Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO).

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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