How does the Philippines ensure the independence of the constitutional offices?

According to the 1987 Constitution of the Philippine Republic as stated in Article IX (Constitutional Commissions) that Constitutional Commissions which shall be independent are the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit. However, the Philippine government or the three (3) of its branches are independently monitored by the office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is given the mandate to investigate and prosecute any government official allegedly guilty of crimes, especially Graft and Corruption.

After an investigation, the Ombudsman files charges at the Sandiganbayan, a special anti-graft court. Hence, to determine whether the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction, lawyers look into two (2) criteria, namely: the nature of the offense and the salary grade of the public official. Cases are heard either en banc [i.e. cases and pleadings are heard in a bench with different judges] or more commonly, by divisions. Thereafter, Cases may reach the Sandiganbayan either through an appeal from a Regional Trial Court or by original petition filed with the Sandiganbayan.

Cases are deemed submitted for decision after the last brief, pleading, or memorandum is filed, or after the deadline for doing so has passed. Therefore, the first is institutional independence which is supported by many elements, including financial independence which is also stated in our constitution – that is the Commission being given sufficient funds to allow it reasonably discharge its mandate with ease.

Personnel independence – the ability of the commission to hire its own key staff members to minimize manipulation from other sectors of the state – is also a key. That personal independence is supposed to be guaranteed by an appointment process that means commissioners do not feel beholden to those who will be affected by their decisions especially those individuals who feel dominant and manipulative against the decisions of the Constitutional Offices, and by their [Constitutional Offices] being very hard to dismiss –so they do not bow to those who can remove them.

The constitution makers perhaps faltered at the final stage. Having devised a system of independent commissions, they left the details of appointments processes to law (made by Parliament/Congress). And they gave the Congress the power to approve (or disapprove) commissioners, and the role of deciding whether a complaint against commissioners should lead to removal proceedings. The whole structure –intended to ensure integrity, competence and freedom from interference from those with vested interests


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