THE Office of the Ombudsman on Friday said it will continue to investigate the reported multi-billion peso wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte as it is not intimidated by his threat to have the Office investigated for corruption.
“Sorry Mr. President but this Office shall not be intimidated,” the Ombudsman, in a press release, said a day after Duterte threatened the Office over national television.
Duterte said the Ombudsman should be investigated for corruption. He claimed that he was, at one time, asked for bribe by the Ombudsman but he refused to give in when he was still mayor of Davao City.
“Sabihin ng Ombudsman walang corruption. Tanungin mo yung mga military, kayong mga Filipino, tanungin ninyo mga military nagkakaso diyan, magkano yung binayad nila, pulis, lahat mayor, governors, tanungin ninyo, bayad yan, bayad yan. Anak ng…Pagkabayad ng kaso, dismiss yan…You have to be investigated also. One of these days, kayo ang sigurado kong hahabulin dahil nga sa partiality ninyo. ‘Pag hindi ninyo imbestigahan ang sarili ninyo, ako ang mag-set up ng commission to investigate you as a President with investigating powers,” an apparently irked Duterte said over state-run People’s Television.
But the Ombudsman noted that Duterte is just trying to get back at the anti-graft body for probing his wealth, especially the reported multi-billion peso bank account of the First Family.
“The President’s announcement that he intends to create a commission to investigate the Ombudsman appears to have to do with this Office’s on-going investigation into issues that involve him….,” the Ombudsman said.
Nevertheless, the Ombudsman welcomed Duterte’s threat to have the Office looked into even as it stressed that it will continue its investigation and that Duterte has nothing to fear if there were no anomalous transactions in his bank accounts..
“The Office, all the same, welcomes, as it has always welcomed, efforts to help it cleanse its ranks. Its Internal Affairs Board has, in fact, entrapped and removed Ombudsman officials and employees for various offenses. This Office, nonetheless, shall proceed with the probe, as mandated by the Constitution,” the Ombudsman said adding that “If the President has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear.”
Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang said based on the complaint filed by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, they have found enough basis to start investigating the alleged multi-billion peso wealth of Duterte.
He added that bank records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) showed the flow of money through deposits and withdrawals from Duterte’s family adding that the accounts of the president’s common-law wife and their daughter were also included in the records.
But the AMLC said it never provided the Ombudsman any documents about Duterte’s family bank accounts.
In response, the Ombudsman said it “stands by its word” on the bank documents it has in its possession.
As this developed, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines reminded public officials that they must not be “onion-skinned.”
The IBP, in a press statement. said “public office is a public trust. Upon assumption of public office, a government official holds his life open to public scrutiny.”
It explained that the creation of another body either by executive issuance or by an act of Congress that effectively defeats the independence and flexibility needed by the Ombudsman in the discharge of her duties is, at best, Constitutionally suspect.
The IBP said that it is judicially established that the Office of the Ombudsman does not owe its existence to any act of Congress. It was created by the Constitution itself. It enjoys fiscal autonomy.
As an independent body it must be insulated from political pressure – most especially from the highest political office in the land. To allow such pressure would result in the prostitution or impairment of its core functions, the IBP said.