For allegedly favoring opposition lawmakers
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday threatened to set up a commission to investigate the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged partiality and corruption after the independent body said it has launched a probe into his bank transactions in joint accounts with his children that came to billions of pesos.
“You have to be investigated also. One of these days, I’m coming after you because of your partiality,” Duterte said, addressing the Office of the Ombudsman in Filipino on state-run PTV-4 “If you don’t investigate yourselves, I will set up a commission to investigate you, as a President with investigating powers.”
Duterte had earlier expressed his disappointment in the Office of the Ombudsman for seemingly favoring lawmakers allied with the opposition Liberal Party, after learning that none of them are being investigated for the misuse of funds through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which was struck down as illegal by the Supreme Court.
“I don’t see any Liberal getting charged—many of them have DAP cases,” the President said. “Is the Ombudsman beholden to the Liberals?”
The President also said corruption was “rampant” in the agency that was supposed to go after grafters in the government.
“There’s no corruption in the Office of the Ombudsman? … Ask the military, the police, your mayors and governors on how much they paid for the ‘arrangement’ of their cases,” the President said.
Earlier, the President’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said that Duterte did not at any time accumulate more than P1 billion in his supposed bank accounts, and denied claims by the Office of the Ombudsman that the President’s bank transactions in joint accounts with his children came to “billions.”
“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,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters in a chance interview at the Palace Thursday.
Panelo said 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.”
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said that while the Palace respects the reported investigation being conducted by the Ombudsman on allegations that Duterte has undeclared wealth hidden in bank accounts, it trusts the Ombudsman’s “impartiality on the matter.”
Panelo, on the other hand, warned Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang from futher disclosing details of the President’s alleged bank records, purportedly obtained from the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
“We remind Carandang… that investigatory records complied 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,” the President’s lawyer said.
“This is expressly stated in Section 3 (f) of the Rules Implementing the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Official and Employees (Republic Act No. 6713). Lest ODO Carandang forgets, violation of the foregoing provision may subject the offender to administrative sanctions,” he added.
In a news report, Carandang said that his agency has received Duterte’s bank records from before he became president from 2006 to 2016 and that they show millions of pesos being transacted in joint accounts with his children.
“We can confirm that we received bank transactions from AMLC,” Carandang was quoted by ABS-CBN as saying. “There were P40 million... P50 million ... there were many.”
Earlier this month, Duterte refused a demand by opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, to publicly release details of his bank accounts, Duterte said, “You must be stupid. ... Why would I give you the pleasure?”
Trillanes first alleged that Duterte had unexplained wealth during the presidential campaign last year. In February, he raised the issue again, saying Duterte had not yet revealed details of more than P2 billion he allegedly kept in bank accounts as a former city mayor.
Panelo dismissed Trillanes’ charges, saying the senator has been unable to present sufficient evidence to prove his claims against the President.
Meanwhile, Mayor Sara Duterte said she welcomes the probe by the Office of the Ombudsman.
“I welcome it so that we can finally answer all accusations in the proper venue. Thank you,” the presidential daughter said in a statement.
President Duterte earlier denied the allegations of Trillanes saying that he does not have billions in his bank accounts and that his wealth is from the sale of the properties of his late father, former Davao governor Vicente Duterte.
The President said that he acquired a million even when he was still a student in Davao due to the sale of his father’s property. He also authorized everybody to check on his Union Bank account if he has billions of pesos as alleged by Trillanes.