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Backtracking? Deputy ombudsman says he was reacting to bank documents shown by media

President Rodrigo Duterte shows a matrix in his interview during Erwin Tulfo's program "Sa Totoo Lang" which was aired on the People's Television on Sept. 29, 2017. Richard Madelo/Presidential Photo
MANILA, Philippines — Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang suddenly changed his tone and said that the documents he talked about last week concerning President Rodrigo Duterte's supposed bank transactions actually came from the media.
 
In a press statement issued Monday, Carandang maintained that his office “has observed confidentiality” concerning the investigation on Duterte and his family's alleged unexplained wealth when the latter was mayor of Davao City.
 
“Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang maintains that the Office of the Ombudsman has observed confidentiality in the Ombudsman investigation on the complaint against then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, which complaint was filed, in fact, even before the 2016 elections,” the statement read.
 
 
Carandang was referring to the complaint that Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV filed against Duterte before the ombudsman during the campaign period for the May 2016 presidential elections.
 
In his complaint, Trillanes alleged that Duterte has more than P2 billion of undeclared wealth in the form of deposits and credits in several bank accounts under his and his family members' names.
 
In television and newspaper reports that came out last week, Carandang was quoted as saying that his office has been authorized by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to conduct a fact-finding investigation on Trillanes' complaint.
 
Carandang was also quoted as saying that the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao, who is leading the fact-finding investigation, has already secured several bank documents from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which also found sufficient grounds to conduct its own probe on Trillanes' complaint.
 
Carandang said the bank documents from AMLC shows that the Duterte family has over P1 billion worth of transactions in several banks from 2006 to 2016.
 
But in a statement issued on Thursday, the AMLC denied providing any bank records to the ombudsman. The AMLC further said it has yet to evaluate if there is ground to initiate an investigation on Duterte's bank transactions.

From the media?

In his statement Monday, Carandang seemed to have taken back his words and pointed to the media.
 
“Carandang states that he was reading through the documents shown to him by the media during the ambush interview, in response to media’s inquiry on the status of the complaint after more than a year since its filing and in stating that a request was made to AMLC as part of the investigative process,” the statement read.
 
 
Carandang and other ombudsman officials were not answering clarificatory questions from reporters after issuing the statement.
 
Regular reporters in the ombudsman beat never conducted any “ambush interview” with Carandang last week when the reports about the supposed ongoing ombudsman fact-finding investigation on Duterte family's wealth came out.
 
In a TV Patrol report aired on Wednesday last week, Carandang was quoted as saying: “We can confirm that we received bank transactions coming from AMLC, bank transactions generated by AMLC.”
 
Just last Friday, the ombudsman issued a statement saying that “the office stands by its word” concerning the bank records under its possession.
 
“If the President has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear,” the ombudsman even said.
 
 
Duterte accused the ombudsman of illegally obtaining his and his family's bank records. Duterte said the bank transaction records were obtained without any permission from AMLC or a court.
 
Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo earlier warned Carandang that he might face administrative sanctions for divulging details of Duterte and his family's bank records while the ombudsman's fact-finding investigation, a proceeding which is supposed to be confidential, is still ongoing.
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