PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest officials of the Office of the Ombudsman if they refuse to be probed by an “independent” commission.
Still stung by the Ombudsman’s earlier announcement that it would investigate his and his family’s bank transactions, Duterte on Friday threatened to tap the military or the police to force the issue.
Duterte said he would “apply for subpoena powers from the courts” to force the investigating body for government officials to subject itself to his commission.
“If I do not have the subpoena powers, then I will apply for a subpoena powers from the courts…Pag hindi kayo sumipot (If you do not show up), I will order the police and the military to arrest you,” Duterte said over state-owned People’s Television Network.
“That’s the only way. If you do not show up, I will have you arrested. That’s not being a dictator. Justice for one is justice for all. Sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose,” he added.
Duterte made the statement following the Ombudsman’s move to investigate his family’s bank transactions pursuant to a complaint filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, a staunch critic of the President.
Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang on Wednesday said the documents submitted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) on the bank accounts of the President were “more or less” the same as the ones Trillanes had exposed to the public.
The AMLC however denied on Thursday it had released Duterte’s bank records to either the Ombudsman or Trillanes.
On Friday, the Ombudsman said: “Sorry, Mr. President, but this Office shall not be intimidated.”
“The President’s announcement that he intends to create a commission to investigate the Ombudsman appears to have to do with this Office’s on-going investigation into issues that involve him. This Office, nonetheless, shall proceed with the probe, as mandated by the Constitution,” it said.
Duterte said he was unfazed by the probe, but warned the Ombudsman that he would dig into the alleged moneymaking activities at the anti-graft body.
“You’ll be investigated also. One of these days, I will run after you,” Duterte said. “Do not fool me. Do not force my hands into it. I will set up a commission to investigate the Ombudsman, the institution itself.”
The President claimed the Ombudsman was soliciting money from individuals under investigation to dismiss the cases lodged against them.
He revealed that he was also a victim of the Office of the Ombudsman’s alleged extortion racket when he was still the mayor of Davao City.
The President, however, did not mention the particular case filed against him before the Office of the Ombudsman.
“The Ombudsman would say there’s no corruption. To Filipinos, ask the military police, mayors, governors, who faced cases before [the Ombudsman], how much money they gave. There’s a bribe. Son of a…After giving money, the case was dismissed,” he said.
“When I was a mayor, they asked for money. I declined. I said, just file. Then the case was submitted to the Supreme Court and filed by the Ombudsman. You made me spend money only to resolve [the case, for its]dismissal,” he added.
The President also revived his allegation that the Ombudsman was administering “selective justice” to favor the opposition Liberal Party.
He warned that there would be a “scuffle” if the Ombudsman continues to perform illicit activities.
“If you do not investigate yourself, I will set up a commission to investigate you as a President has investigating powers. There will be a scuffle because who would investigate your irregularities?” Duterte said.
“What is the remedy of the Filipino if you keep on extorting money? Do not fool me. Do not force my hands into it,” he added.
‘No sacred cows’
In Malacañang, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella noted that the Executive branch “recognize[s]that the Office of the Ombudsman has the constitutional duty to probe erring government officials.”
“As the protector of the people, the Ombudsman is expected to act promptly on complaints filed against officers or employees of the government,” Abella said.
He, however, noted that the Ombudsman is “not exempt from allegations of corruption, which the President said, need to be investigated.”
“The Ombudsman should be open to any probe that would check into alleged corrupt practices amongst its officials and employees to underscore that there are no sacred cows in the government,” Abella said.
The day earlier, however, the Ombudsman said it “welcomes, as it has always welcomed, efforts to help it cleanse its ranks.”
The Ombudsman said “Its Internal Affairs Board has, in fact, entrapped and removed Ombudsman officials and employees for various offenses.”
“As to the documents in its possession, the Office stands by its word. If the President has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear.”
Pimentel backs probe
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd on Saturday backed the President’s proposal to form a body to probe the Ombudsman for alleged corruption and biases in disposing of cases.
Sought for comment on the President’s bid to investigate the Ombudsman, Pimentel said, “P’wede sa tingin ko. (I think so).”
“The findings of the committee can be referred to Congress if there’s a ground for impeachment,” he said in a radio interview.
Pimentel rejected the observation of the President’s critics that as the highest official of the land, the Chief Executive should not be “onion-skinned.”
“Our President is not onion-skinned. He can handle intrigues in the local politics with ease,” said Pimentel, one of the top officials of the President’s PDP-Laban party.
Opposition senators Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima denounced the President for “harassing” the Ombudsman.
“Out of place ang banta ng presidente—na ang pinakamataas na opisina ng bansa ay mag-iimbistiga sa isang constitutional body (The President’s threat is out of place—that the highest office of the land will investigate a constitutional body),” Hontiveros said in a radio interview.
“That’s why I’m happy with the Ombudsman’s resolve that she (Conchita Carpio-Morales) will not be intimidated and will just proceed with her job under the Constitution,” the senator added.
De Lima, in a statement, said, “We need to denounce the threat of President Duterte against the Ombudsman. Nililihis niya ang isyu (He’s trying to divert the issue).”
“The Ombudsman is an independent institution. It should not be bullied simply because they started to look into your alleged hidden wealth,” said de Lima, who is detained on drug-related charges that she claims were trumped up to silence her.
WITH BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO