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Ombudsman should be open to probe – Palace

Carpio-Morales

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday stood pat on President Duterte’s plans to investigate and rid the Office of the Ombudsman of its corrupt officials.

The ombudsman, however, maintained it will not be intimidated by Duterte’s threats to create a commission to look into anomalies at the anti-graft agency.

“The Office of the Ombudsman should be open to any probe that would check into alleged corrupt practices amongst its officials and employees to underscore that there are no sacred cows in the government,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

Duterte turned the tables on the ombudsman after it launched a fact-finding investigation into his and his family’s bank accounts, which stemmed from the exposés of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

“We recognize that the Office of the Ombudsman has the constitutional duty to probe erring government officials. As the protector of the people, the Office of the Ombudsman is expected to act promptly on complaints filed against officers or employees of the government,” Abella said.

Abella then echoed Duterte’s tirades, questioning the integrity of the officials based on reports that some accepted bribes from local officials in exchange for the dismissal of charges against them. 

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“The sad reality, however, is that the Office of the Ombudsman is not exempt from allegations of corruption, which the President said need to be investigated,” Abella said.

In a recorded interview aired over PTV-4 last Friday, Duterte said he will use his executive powers to create a commission to conduct an inquiry into the reports of bribery and other corruption issues against the ombudsman.

Duterte added he will ask the courts to issue subpoena to force the individuals who will be subject of the inquiry to cooperate with the commission.

Duterte said he himself was a victim of corruption at the agency when it filed charges against him based on newspaper clippings, which were eventually reversed by a higher court.

“There are things in life that as a matter of principle I cannot accept. There is a vacuum and nobody can investigate you, you keep on sending, I will answer you,” Duterte said.

“But at the end of the day, after my presidency, you cannot find something against me…I will slap your documents to your face,” he said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the President was well within his rights to create a commission to investigate the alleged corrupt activities of the ombudsman.

Pimentel said the commission’s work would be purely fact-finding and whatever evidence it gathers could be used later on in an impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, if there are sufficient grounds to support this.

He said that the executive branch could always conduct the necessary investigations especially if, such as this particular instance, the Office of the Ombudsman, as the institution in charge of investigating graft and corrupt acts in government, is the one involved.

It is then up to the legislative branch to act on these findings to discipline the ombudsman through the impeachment process.

Pimentel said it was unfair for the critics of the President to say that he is onion-skinned in acting out against the ombudsman.

He said the President is used to all kinds of criticisms and attacks as a long-time local chief executive so there is nothing being done against him that he is not used to at all.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, said the move of the President does not look good for the highest office of the land to be conducting an investigation into a constitutional body.

She aired her concern about the democratic institutions of the country being under duress because of an overreaching executive branch.

Hontiveros encouraged all Filipinos to use the example of the ombudsman in refusing to be intimidated by the President and to continue standing up for what is right.  – With Marvin Sy

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