“SORRY, Mr. President but this office shall not be intimidated.”
With these words, the Office of the Ombudsman said Friday it would continue to investigate the wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte and his family despite his threat to launch his own probe of the independent agency.
Duterte had threatened to form a commission to investigate the Office of the Ombudsman for its alleged partiality and corruption, after it announced that it was looking into his bank transactions in joint accounts with his children that came to billions of pesos.
“You have to be investigated also. One of these days, I’m coming after you because of your partiality,” Duterte said, addressing the Office of the Ombudsman in Filipino on state-run PTV-4 “If you don’t investigate yourselves, I will set up a commission to investigate you.”
Duterte had earlier accused the Ombudsman of partiality after learning that no Liberal Party members were being investigated for their misuse of funds through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which was struck down as illegal by the Supreme Court.
He also sugested that Office of the Ombudsman personnel were taking bribes to make their cases go away.
But the Ombudsman said Duterte seemed to be hitting back because he was being investigated.
“The President’s announcement that he intends to form a commission to investigate the Ombudsman appears to be a retaliation to our ongoing investigation,” it said.
“We will, nonetheless proceed with the probe, as mandated by the Constitution. If the President has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear,” the Office of the Ombudsman said.
The Palace defended Duterte’s threat to investigate the Ombudsman.
“The President, as the head of the Executive Department can create commissions to investigate whatever anomaly that will be discovered,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo told state radio dzRB in an interview.
Panelo said the filing of charges against employees of a state body is consistent with the need for public accountability, even if the body in question is a constitutional office.
“It doesn’t mean that just because you’re a constitutional office, you cannot be investigated. First and foremost, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales is the only one immune from prosecution—she could be removed only with an impeachment complaint. But for the ordinary employees, they could be slapped with charges,” he said, referring to Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang.
Panelo said the subsequent denial by the Anti-Money Laundering Council that it provided a report on the President’s bank transactions only showed that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV allegations were false, and that the report by Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang was also false.
Panelo had earlier criticized Carandang for making a “premature” disclosure of the documents the Ombudsman is said to be holding, claiming what he did was against the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Pubic Officials and Employees.
A former lawmaker, meanwhile, said he hoped Duterte’s latest tirade against the Office of the Ombudsman would help jump-start the impeachment complaint he filed against Morales some time ago but which was shelved.
Morales, an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III, is serving a seven-year term that expires in 2018.
Paras said he hoped the President would use his clout in the House of Representatives to get the impeachment complaint against Morales endorsed.
“She is behind the many anomalies in the [Office of the] Ombudsman, including selective justice, inordinate delay in resolving cases and toleration of many anomalies within,” he added.
Morales, he added, was “behind the lies” being spread by Carandang about Duterte’s bank deposits.
Trillanes, on the other hand, questioned the authenticity of a statement released by the AMLC late Thursday, saying it did not carry a date and the name of the person responsible for the information.
In the statement, the AMLC denied it was the source of bank records of the Duterte family in relation to an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman into the alleged hidden wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I question the authenticity of the AMLC message being circulated in the media in relation to the Ombudsman’s revelations regarding Duterte’s hidden wealth because there is no signature and date in the statement,” Trillanes said in a statement on Friday.
But the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Corporate Affairs Office said the AMLC statement overnight was legitimate.
A similar statement is now posted on the AMLC website.
The AMLC said that it was not the source of documents and information attached by Trillanes to his complaint regarding the alleged bank accounts of the President and his family.
“It has neither provided the Office of the Ombudsman with any report as a consequence of any investigation of subject accounts for any purpose,” the AMLC said.
“Suffice it to state that in the attachment to the complaint, the alleged debits and credits representing outflows and inflows of funds were added together, thus the resulting total amounts are wrong and misleading,” the council added.
Earlier, the AMLC had said it received a request fro the Ombudsman in early September to initiate an investigation into Duterte’s bank transanctions.
The council said the request concerned information provided by Trillanes to the Ombudsman “regarding the alleged bank accounts of President Rodrigo Duterte.”
“We have yet to evaluate the request, and the initiation of an investigation, as well as the release of any report on the subject will depend on such evaluation,” the AMLC added.
But Carandang told ABS-CBN television this week that the agency has been quietly investigating Duterte and his family’s bank transactions since last year.