The Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to administratively discipline errant government officials and employees. With regard to teachers, this authority is concurrent with the Department of Education (DepEd).
Thus the Supreme Court held when it reversed a decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) and ruled that the Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to determine the administrative liability of an erring public official or employee, and to direct and compel the head of the concerned officer or agency to implement the penalty imposed.
In a 16-page decision penned by Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, the Court remanded the case filed by a public high school teacher Pedro Delijero, Jr., who was dismissed by the Ombudsman for grave misconduct, to the CA for decision on the merits. Delijero allegedly had courted his 12-year-old student and made advances towards her.
The CA had previously nullified the dismissal made by the Ombudsman, ruling that the power of the Ombudsman is only recommendatory and that it cannot impose sanctions against respondent. However, the Court held that the Ombudsman’s power to determine and impose administrative liability is not merely recommendatory but actually mandatory.
The CA had also ruled that the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction to investigate the complaint filed before it as RA 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers specifically covers and governs administrative proceedings involving public school teachers. The CA had held that the Ombudsman should have immediately dismissed the case after Delijero informed it, through a manifestation, of the pendency of an administrative complaint in the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS), now DepEd. The Court, however, held that the administrative disciplinary authority of the DECS over a public school teacher is not an exclusive power but is concurrent with the Ombudsman.
Moreover, the Court held that though it would have been more prudent for the Ombudsman to have referred the complaint to the DECS given that it would have been in a better position to serve the interest of justice considering the nature of the controversy, it is not nullifying the proceedings before the Ombudsman as estoppel has already set in. The Court found that Delijero actively participated in the proceedings before the Ombudsman as he had submitted his counter-affidavit, an affidavit of his witness, and attached annexes. He also filed a Motion for Reconsideration asking for affirmative relief from the Ombudsman. (GR No. 172635, Ombudsman v. Delijero, October 20, 2010)