Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Friday hit back at President Rodrigo Duterte for saying police and military personnel needed his clearance prior to answering summons from the anti-graft office.
There is no law requiring Ombudsman respondents to seek anyone’s clearance, Morales pointed out.
“Anong pakialam niya? (What does he care?) Under the law, we have subpoena powers. We have orders for particular officials including police and soldiers to show up or to file pleadings. If they don’t file pleadings, that’s their lookout. So to say that we need or they need the prior approval of the President, that’s the lookout of those to whom he’s addressing that,” Morales told reporters at the sidelines of an anti-corruption forum in Quezon City.
“There is no law, there is no law that requires a soldier or a policeman or any respondent for that matter to seek clearance from anybody,” Morales, a former Supreme Court associate justice, added.
According to the Ombudsman, her office files or dismisses cases regardless of whether the respondent answers the complaint or not.
“The case proceeds if there’s probable cause, irrespective of whether he answers or not,” she said.
Morales told reporters she was not invited to Monday’s State of the Nation Address, where Duterte made the statement.
“It’s okay, I don’t care,” said the Ombudsman, who was also not invited last year.
Morales to VACC: ‘I’m not a coward’
Also on Friday, Morales said she would not inhibit from the charges pending before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the botched counter-terror police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.
Earlier, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said that she should resign or inhibit following the office’s ruling dismissing the charge of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide filed in 2016 against former president Benigno Aquino 3rd, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, and former PNP Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napeñas.
“Why will I inhibit? On what ground?” Morales said.
“No, I am not a coward,” she added.
In its ruling, the Office of the Ombudsman found basis to charge Aquino, Purisima, and Napeñas only with graft and usurpation of authority before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
The Ombudsman dismissed for lack of probable cause the complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, saying the proximate cause of the death of the 44 SAF members who died in Mamasapano was the “intentional act” of shooting by hostile forces including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and private armed groups.
Several of the 44 police commandos’ kin who filed the complaint last year, as well as Aquino, are asking the Ombudsman to reconsider the ruling.
The police operation known as “Oplan Exodus” was aimed at capturing Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his protégé Abdulbasit Usman. Marwan was killed while Usman escaped.
Over 60 people, including 44 SAF members, were killed in the gun battle that ensued. Usman was later killed by the MILF in a chance encounter.
‘I can never be silenced’
During the symposium on Friday, Morales said “the Ombudsman can never be silenced. They can attempt to repress the messenger but they cannot suppress the message.”
“Marami diyan, maraming bumabatikos sa akin e akala mo kung sino sila. Kayo nang maging Ombudsman. It’s a thankless job [There are many there, many are criticizing me, they think they are somebody. They should be the Ombudsman instead. It’s a thankless job],”