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Sereno, Bautista accusers file raps vs deputy ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City. File photo

MANILA, Philippines —The accusers of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Commission on Elections Chairman Andy Bautista on Tuesday filed administrative raps against Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang amid the Ombudsman’s probe into President Rodrigo Duterte’s wealth.

In a 13-page complaint filed before the Office of the President, lawyers Manuelito Luna and Eligio Mallari accused Carandang of graft and corruption or betrayal of public trust.

According to the complainants, Carandang is guilty of corruption for causing “undue injury to any party, including the government,” as well as for giving “unwarranted benefits” through “manifest partiality” and for “divulging valuable information of a confidential character.”

The complainants also said Carandang must be held liable for betrayal of public trust for “falsely and maliciously” claiming that the Anti-Money Laundering Council had issued a “report” regarding Duterte’s alleged account deposits.

Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. and Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption filed an impeachment complaint against Sereno for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Meanwhile, former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto "Jing" Paras, accompanied by Luna, filed an impeachment complaint against Bautista for his alleged P1-billion ill-gotten wealth.

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The House justice committee, however, dismissed both complaints.

Filers want deputy ombudsman for Mindanao out

The complainants also said Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao Rodolfo Elman “deserves to be removed from office” for allegedly violating the Bank Secrecy Law by providing Carandang with information regarding Duterte’s account deposits and transactions.

“As for the Members, Fact-Finding Investigation Team/Field Investigation Unit, Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao, assigned to conduct fact-finding on the subject accounts and transactions related thereto, their mere possession of documents or records thereof is sufficient enough to warrant their dismissal for gross misconduct,” the document read in part.

A separate complaint was also filed by former Rep. Paras and lawyer Glenn Chong.

They accused Carandang of committing grave misconduct, grave dishonesty and gross negligence, which they said constitute betrayal of public trust. They also accused him of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law.

In a chance interview, Paras said the raps were filed before the Office of the President because it has authority over the matter.

“The Ombudsman Law itself under Section 8 of the law specifically gives the authority to the Office of the President to undertake investigation of the Deputy Ombudsman and the special prosecutor of the Ombudsman,” Paras said.

The law holds that "a Deputy, or the Special Prosecutor, may be removed from office by the president for any of the grounds provided for the removal of the Ombudsman, and after due process."

Paras: OP can investigate Ombudsman

“Kaya po doon po nanggagaling yung sinasabi ng ating pangulo na puwede niyang magtayo ng commission to investigate. After all, if it’s the Office of the President, then with the powers of the president, he can create a commission, he can create a body, he can create a team that will investigate,” he added.

Duterte earlier said he would form a commission that would look into allegations of anomalies and “partiality” in the anti-graft agency. He also threatened the officials at the Ombudsman with arrest if they ignore court summons.

This was after the Ombudsman, acting on a case filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, announced that it was launching a fact-finding probe into the alleged billions that Duterte’s family supposedly owned.

Last week, 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.

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

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.

Meanwhile, Duterte recently declared he would not recognize the investigation to be conducted by the ombudsman on his alleged ill-gotten wealth as he accused the anti-graft body of corruption and “selective justice.”

He also warned Carandang that he would blame him if the situation in the country deteriorates.

“Imagine this, Carandang, magdasal ka lang, Carandang. I’m not threatening you. Pagka nagkal**** - l**** ang Pilipinas, uunahin kita,” the president said without elaborating.

‘Because I’m intelligent’

In the same media interview, Paras accused Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales of being behind the “maneuvers” to supposedly “destabilize the government.”

“Parang pinag-usapan na ito eh. Parang they’re synchronized to destabilize this government. Maybe they want power grab or whatsoever,” Paras told reporters.

“Kaya obvious na obvious na itong si Carandang, appointed ito ng mga yellow, ang behind talaga nito ay si Carpio Morales. Kasi hindi naman gagalaw itong si Carandang kung walang go signal ni Carpio Morales,” he added.

Carandang, who left the ombudsman's office in 2007, returned in 2011 as a legal consultant and was appointed overall deputy ombudsman in 2013.

Asked about the source of his statements, Paras said: “Because I’m intelligent. I know to detect.”

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.

The Office of the Ombudsman earlier 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.

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