SUPPORTERS of President Rodrigo Duterte are seeking the ouster of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang and other officials in the Ombudsman’s Mindanao office for disclosing the bank transaction records of the President and his family.
Lawyers Manuelito Luna, Eligio Mallari and former lawmaker Jacinto Paras, among others, made the call in two administrative complaints lodged against Carandang, Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao Rodolfo Elman and members of the fact-finding Investigation Team/Field Investigation Unit of the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao. They filed the complaint before the Office of the President on Tuesday.
The complainants argued that Carandang’s disclosure of the details of the bank transaction records of President Duterte and his family violated the Bank Secrecy Law.
Carandang was quoted in an ABS-CBN report confirming that the Ombudsman’s office “received the bank transactions coming from AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council)” and that the Ombudsman’s office was in possession of bank transaction records of the President and his family that “could reach P200 million.”
The AMLC last week denied that it had released the Dutertes’ bank records to either the Ombudsman or Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th.
The ongoing probe on the wealth of President Duterte and his family stemmed from the P2.4-billion plunder complaint filed by Trillanes against the then Davao City mayor on May 5, 2016—five days before the presidential election.
“Carandang has been very reckless. He even said that the entries of bank transactions presented to him by the media and those he is in possession of are the same. The mere possession of [records of]bank transactions and bank accounts is already a criminal offense under the Bank Secrecy Law,” Luna, one of the public prosecutors tapped by the House of Representatives in 2012 in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, said in a chance interview.
“The mere disclosure [of those information]also, is also a crime. His acts constitute an act of graft and corruption and betrayal of public trust. These people [in the Ombudsman]have been very irresponsible. This is an affront to the President. They are motivated to sabotage the economy, the banking sector and destroy the [Duterte] presidency,” Luna added.
Under the Ombudsman law, the sitting President can remove a deputy ombudsman, or the special prosecutor, from office if the official is found guilty the following: treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust, after due process.
The Ombudsman law also states that the Office of the Ombudsman has the power to “investigate and prosecute on its own or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient.”
President Duterte, who earlier said he would not subject himself to the Ombudsman’s probe because of corrupt Ombudsman investigators and officials, is immune from suit until his term expires on June 30, 2022.
‘Ombudsman showing true color’
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella dismissed the Ombudsman’s probe as a deliberate effort to discredit the President, mislead the public, and to create popular outrage against the duly elected Chief Executive.
“The Office of the Ombudsman is showing its true political color. We must remind them that it is an independent and anti-graft body that is supposed to conduct an impartial and fair investigation. It should not play into the hands of those who cannot accept the fact that the President won in the 2016 election,” Abella said.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo supported Abella’s comments.
“The President is not threatening nor intimidating the Office of the Ombudsman or any of its officers. He is merely reprimanding the body for not following the appropriate procedure for investigation and strongly reminding it to strictly observe the process as mandated by law and its own internal rules,” Panelo said in a statement.
“Given that the procedure being undertaken by the Office of the Ombudsman is flawed at the onset, it is only proper for the President to refrain from submitting himself to the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman. To do otherwise will effectively make him an accomplice to the violation of the said Office,” he added.
Morales won’t quit
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Tuesday that she “will not be baited into abandoning” her constitutional duties.
President Duterte on Monday called on Morales and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to resign because of supposed corruption in their offices.
“I will not be baited into abandoning my constitutional duties. If the president has charges against me, I will answer them in accordance with the law. I expect him to answer the charges against him in the same manner,” Morales said.
“As public officials we have sworn to uphold the rule of law. We should as well, serve with honor, honesty and decency,” she said.
Duterte claimed he had paid investigators asking for bribes in exchange for dismissing his cases.
Former senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada likewise claimed on Monday a field investigator attempted to extort money from him in 2013.
Estrada, who has a pending plunder case at the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court and is out on bail, said the investigator offered to downgrade his case to graft. He said he did not get the investigator’s name.
WITH REINA C. TOLENTINO AND SAMANTHA PINEDA