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LP senators: Threats against SC, ombudsman 'veiled attempt' to consolidate power

Liberal Party senators were alarmed by recent tirades of President Rodrigo Duterte against the Supreme Court and the ombudsman. File

MANILA, Philippines — Liberal Party senators on Monday warned that the "threats" of President Rodrigo Duterte against democratic institutions such as the ombudsman and the Supreme Court were a veiled attempt by the administration to consolidate power.

According to Sen. Bam Aquino, the recent attacks by the president against the Supreme Court and the ombudsman were alarming and unproductive.

READ: Duterte shuns ombudsman's probe, cries 'selective justice'

Instead of undermining them, Aquino said the government should even encourage them in the performance of their duties.

“Kailangan natin ng mga tanggapan, tulad ng CHR at Office of the Ombudsman, na walang takot na iimbestigahan at lalabanan ang pang-aabuso at ang korupsyon,” Aquino said.

Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, the president of the former ruling Liberal Party, warned that the tirades of the president against the said institutions were "disturbing developments" that would weaken democracy and the respect for rule of law.

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He also asked Duterte to reconsider his refusal to cooperate in a fact-finding investigation by the ombudsman into his alleged bank accounts containing millions of pesos based on the complaint filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV before the anti-graft agency.

"We agree with Ombudsman Morales that if he has nothing to hide, then he has nothing to fear,” said Pangilinan.

READ: ‘Who… are you to tell me’: Duterte hits IBP over 'onion-skinned' remark

He said the administration should instead make true on its promise that transparency and accountability would be the hallmark of the presidency of Duterte.

Regarding complaints about graft in the SC and the ombudsman, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Congress should be the institution to probe and prosecute Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Morales because they are impeachable officers.

“We must keep in mind that the Constitution has enough safeguards to discipline and go after erring officials. We should apply and follow the Constitution and the rule of law," Drilon said.

Duterte in two separate occasions blasted the Office of the Ombudsman and Sereno for alleged corruption amid questions over his supposed millions in bank accounts he jointly owned with his children.

On Thursday, a day after the probe was announced, Duterte warned the anti-graft agency against bias in treating his case, saying he would form a commission that would look into irregularities in the way its prosecutors handled cases of past military and government officials.

The president alleged that these officials, including him when he was still the mayor of Davao City, were offered dismissal of their cases in exchange for a sum of money.

The chief executive also ruled out recognizing the probe of the anti-graft body because of what he perceived as its "selective justice."

This statement came despite assurance from the Palace that Duterte respects the processes of the ombudsman and its objectivity in conducting the probe.

Duterte also claimed that the SC was headed by a "corrupt" official, referring to Sereno who was appointed by Duterte's predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III.

Sereno is facing an impeachment complaint for her alleged failure to declare P37 million in professional fees she received as a private lawyer for the Philippine government in the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc (PIATCO) case.

Sereno has denied the accusation and claimed that she knew "in conscience she did not do anything wrong."

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