PALACE THREATENS OMBUDSMAN

Release of Duterte accounts ‘illegal’

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s top legal adviser on Thursday warned the Ombudsman against prematurely disclosing details of the Chief Executive’s bank records supposedly obtained from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

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Speaking to reporters, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said disclosing the records of an ongoing case was illegal, referring to the Office of the Ombudsman’s probe into the supposed ill-gotten wealth of Duterte and his family sought by opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th.

Panelo accused Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang of making the premature disclosures.

“We remind Carandang, however, that…records compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of such records deprives a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, should not be disclosed while the proceedings are ongoing,” Panelo told reporters.

He cited Section 3(f) of the Rules Implementing the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees or Republic Act 6713, violation of which “may subject the offender to administrative sanctions.”
The AMLC on Thursday however denied being the source of Duterte’s bank records.

In a statement, it also denied giving Duterte’s bank records to either Trillanes or the Office of the Ombudsman.
It said it received on September 6 Carandang’s request to initiate a probe into the President’s accounts, but added it would have to first evaluate the request.

‘Misimpressions’

Panelo said the premature disclosures made the impression that Duterte hid P1 billion in secret bank accounts.

“It is noteworthy to mention that the alleged bank records of the President, assuming for the sake of argument that they are correct, do not necessarily indicate that he is hiding money in the total amount of more that P1 billion, and that the same is ill-gotten,” Panelo explained.

“As stated by news reports, the alleged amount was computed based on “in-and-out” bank transactions of the President’s family through the years. Hence, this does not sufficiently prove that the President has accumulated money in the total amount of more than P1 billion at any given time,” he added.

The AMLC supported Panelo’s argument. “Suffice it to state that, in the attachment to [Trillanes’] complaint, the alleged debits and credits representing outflows and inflows of funds were added together, thus the resulting total amounts are wrong and misleading,” it said in its statement.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales had ordered Carandang to look into the allegation of Trillanes that Duterte and his family had amassed billions of pesos through corrupt activities.

The senator had alleged that Duterte’s bank transactions amounted to P2.4 billion from 2006 to 2015.

He had also claimed that Duterte failed to declare in his 2014 statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth a P211-million deposit to the Bank of the Philippine Islands’ Julia Vargas branch in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

The President has repeatedly denied Trillanes’ allegations first made during the 2016 election campaign, and in turn accused the senator of owning offshore bank accounts.

‘Probe Ombudsman’

Duterte escalated his word war with the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday night and called for a commission to investigate the body, which is headed by Morales, a former Supreme Court justice.

“The Ombudsman claims there’s no corruption. Go ahead and ask the military, police, mayors, governors, how much they paid to have their cases dismissed,” he said.

Duterte said he was once accused before the Office of the Ombudsman, which looks into graft complaints, and claimed it took a long while before he was able to clear his name.

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