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Duterte threatens to arrest Ombudsman officials dodging probe

FAMILY TIES: In this Sept. 16, 2016 file photo, President Rodrigo Duterte marches with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales at the wedding of Waldo and Regina Carpio at a wedding at San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila. Waldo Carpio is a brother of Manases Carpio, husband of Duterte’s daughter Sara. Morales is the sister of Waldo and Manases Carpio’s father. PPD/King Rodriquez

MANILA, Philippine — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday threatened to arrest officials at the Office of the Ombudsman should they fail to cooperate with the commission that he plans to create to probe the body investigating his wealth.

Duterte earlier said he would form a commission that would look into allegations of anomalies and “partiality” in the anti-graft agency.

This was after the Ombudsman announced that it was launching a fact-finding probe into the alleged billions that Duterte’s family supposedly owned.

In a televised interview, the firebrand leader threatened the officials at the Ombudsman with arrest if they do not comply with court summons.

“I will create a commission... I will apply for a summons sa Court. Pag hindi ninyo 'yan na-implement, I will arrest you,” Duterte said.

“Pag hindi ka sumipot doon sa commission na 'yun, if I do not have the subpoena powers, then I will apply for a subpoena powers from the courts... I will order the police and the military to arrest you. 'Yan lang ang paraan eh,” he added.

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“Now is the time na magresbak kayo. And I will pin them down.”

'Not a dictator'

The Office of the Ombudsman also on Friday said it would not yield to intimidation as it vowed to continue its probe into the chief executive’s alleged clandestine wealth.

“If the president has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear,” it said.

Despite his threats to the constitutional body, Duterte maintained in the same interview that he is not a dictator.

“Hindi diktador 'yan. Justice for one is justice for all. Sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose. Sabi niyo, wala kayong corruption? Huwag ninyo akong bolahin, ako mismo biktima,” he said.

The president is immune from suit while in office, but he can be investigated in a criminal case.

On Wednesday, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Carandang was quoted as saying that his office had already received the bank transaction record of the president’s family from 2006 to 2016 from the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The fact-finding investigation stemmed from a case filed by one of Duterte’s vocal critics, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, alleging that the first family had hidden wealth.

But AMLC on Thursday denied that it had provided Ombudsman with a report detailing the transaction history of the first family’s bank accounts.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has inhibited herself from acting on any case filed against the first family. Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, is married to Morales’ nephew, lawyer Manases Carpio.

In August, Duterte gave Carpio-Morales a tongue-lashing for supposedly engaging in “selective justice.” He also said the incumbent ombudsman is not entitled to a full term.

The tirade came after the ombudsman criticized Duterte for statements that could be seen as encouraging people to kill.

Attack on an independent office?

The chief of the national organization of lawyers did not seem to take Duterte's warning on the Office of the Ombudsman sitting down.

In a statement on Friday, Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, did not name Duterte but urged public officials not to be "onion-skinned" after Duterte bared his plan to have the Ombudsman investigated by a new commission.

Fajardo said the "creation of another body either by executive issuance or by an act of Congress" may be a violation of the Constitution.

The move also "defeats the independence and flexibility needed by the Ombudsman in the discharge of her duties," the top lawyer said. He added:


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.

— with Camille Diola

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