THE government’s top lawyer on Tuesday said plunder charges against President Rodrigo Duterte have been dropped.
In a statement, Solicitor General Jose Calida said his office had received a letter confirming the termination of the probe from Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang.
“I received a letter from Carandang stating that the investigation has already been closed and terminated. The recommendation to terminate was approved by Deputy Ombudsman Cyril Ramos on 29 November 2017,” Calida said.
This means the charges filed by Senator Antonio Trillanes against the Chief Executive before the Office of the Ombudsman have been junked.
Carandang’s letter came after the filing of administrative charges against him before the Office of the President, for allegedly disclosing information on the President’s finances without authorization.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea ordered Carandang suspended last month, but Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales refuses to implement the order, citing a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that placed her office outside the President’s jurisdiction.
Under the Charter, any criminal charge against an impeachable officer, like the President, cannot prosper without impeachment proceedings.
In May 2016, a plunder case before the Ombudsman was filed by Trillanes against Duterte.
Trillanes claimed President Duterte had unexplained wealth and undeclared bank accounts.
‘Charges without merit’
On February 8, Solicitor General Calida wrote a letter to Carandang clarifying the status of the case. Ombudsman Carpio-Morales had inhibited from the case.
“A public officer must be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, and efficiency,” Calida said.
“Ombudsman Carpio-Morales, being the Ombudsman, must be the protector of the people. She has the constitutional duty to publicize matters covered by investigations when the circumstances so warrant and with due prudence,” Calida said.
Calida said that from the start the complaint filed by Trillanes against Duterte was without merit.
“This case involves the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Why are you withholding this information? When this case was filed, a press conference was even conducted. Three months after the termination of the case, the public has still no knowledge that the evidence supporting the allegations of Trillanes is without merit,” he said.
“Knowing that this frivolous case was terminated by the Ombudsman, Senator Trillanes now seeks to have another Senate hearing on the matter to convince the public about his garbage junked by the Ombudsman,” Calida said. “The Senate should stop this non-sense investigation.”
Calida said he would inform President Duterte through a formal a letter regarding the junking of the charges.
‘Not yet off the hook’
Opposition lawmakers said the Office of the Ombudsman’s termination of its probe into the bank accounts of President Duterte and his family did not clear the President of any liability.
“All investigations must be terminated. Whether the termination is based on a finding that the complaint is true or not, that would be a different matter,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.
“The one which carries the weigh are the findings upon the termination of the investigation,” Lagman added.
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano expressed confidence Ombudsman Morales would not renege on her mandate to run after corrupt officials.
“I am confident that the Ombudsman will find out and prove that the bank accounts of President Duterte [whom he has refused to disclose]are true. The Ombudsman can make a case out of that,” Alejano said.
“This does not clear the President,” Alejano added.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI