Morales to be impeached ‘if necessary’

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will call for the impeachment of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales if necessary, a Palace official said Monday.

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“At this stage, he has the capacity to do that (call for her impeachment). While the Ombudsman has the power to discipline, the President has concurring authority. If necessary, he may…it’s an alternative that can be done by the President,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a news conference.

“[But] he has not yet made that statement. There’s no formal move yet to do that,” Abella added.

In an expletive-filled speech last Saturday before his fellow lawyers, the President repeatedly said that he would not submit to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, claiming its investigators accepted bribes in exchange for dropping cases.

Abella maintained that the President was not defying the rule of law in refusing to cooperate with the ongoing Ombudsman probe on his and his family’s wealth—an investigation stemming from the P2.4-billion plunder complaint filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th against then Davao City Mayor Duterte on May 5, 2016 or five days before the elections.

The President however is immune from prosecution until his term expires at 12 noon on June 30, 2022.

Duterte can be removed through impeachment along with other impeachable officials heading constitutional commissions, such as the Ombudsman, Supreme Court justices, and the chairman of the Commission on Elections.

Morales has inhibited from her office’s probe on the Duterte family since her nephew, lawyer Manases Carpio, is Duterte’s son-in-law.

Carpio is married to Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

‘Morales, Sereno being used’

Abella claimed the Ombudsman’s position was “suspect.”

“The President respects the institution. What he said was he would not submit to its (Ombudsman’s) jurisdiction because their position is suspect. That is where he is coming from. It doesn’t affect his respect on institutions,” Abella stressed.

“The President believes the Supreme Court [Chief] Justice [Maria Lourdes Sereno] and the Ombudsman have allowed themselves to be used by certain political forces to discredit him and his administration in order to spark public outrage and eventually oust him from the presidency. He finds them suspect. And it is his prerogative to ask them to resign,” Abella added.

He was referring to the President’s call for Morales and Sereno, appointees of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd, to resign with him and subject their bank accounts to scrutiny.

“The President sees that, for example, that there may be…that the office may be encouraging a…say for example, like the fishing expedition by the Senate,” he said.

Abella cited the case of Special Prosecutor Wendell Sulit of the Office of the Ombudsman who was ordered dismissed from the service by Aquino in 2012 for negotiating a plea-bargain deal with then Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, who was initially accused of plunder and money laundering.

Under the plea bargain agreement, Garcia was charged with lesser crimes of direct bribery and facilitating money laundering and returned P135 million to government coffers.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo argued that the Office of the Ombudsman was violating the Constitution by investigating the President, as the Chief Executive enjoys immunity from suit.

“The present investigation being conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman is of doubtful validity as it is a circumvention of the doctrine of presidential immunity from suit—a principle anchored on the compelling necessity for a sitting President not to be saddled with suits as such will hamper his efficiency in running the affairs of the state,” Panelo said in a statement.

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