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Palace: Ombudsman 'showing its true political color'

“The Office of the Ombudsman is showing its true political color. We must remind them that it is an independent, anti-graft body that is supposed to conduct an impartial and fair investigation,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press conference. PPD/Toto Lozano

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 10:02 p.m.) — The Office of the Ombudsman is “showing its true political color,” Malacañang said on Tuesday, as it stressed that the anti-graft body must not become a part of a “demolition job” against President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.

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

Duterte has described the accusation as “garbage” and has vowed to step down if proven that he or any member of his family is involved in corruption.

“The Office of the Ombudsman is showing its true political color. We must remind them that it is an independent, anti-graft body that is supposed to conduct an impartial and fair investigation,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press conference.

“It should not play into the hands of those who cannot accept the fact that the president won in the 2016 election. It should not be a party to a demolition job. We have seen this before, this is déjà vu,” Abella added.

Shortly after the ombudsman bared its plan to probe the president’s wealth, Duterte said he would form a commission that would look into allegations of anomalies and “partiality” in the anti-graft agency.

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He also threatened the officials at the ombudsman with arrest if they do not comply with court summons.

Duterte likewise declared he would not recognize the investigation to be conducted by the ombudsman as he accused the constitutional body of corruption and “selective justice.” 

Asked why Duterte suddenly proposed to create a commission to investigate the ombudsman after the constitutional body disclosed that it would look into the president’s wealth, Abella said: “Well, this was the opportune time to do that.”

“He saw it fit to do it at that stage.”

READ: Duterte threatens to arrest Ombudsman officials dodging probe

‘Go against the facts’

Last week, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur 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 the ombudsman with a report detailing the transaction history of the first family’s bank accounts.

Duterte’s chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo said Carandang had violated the code of conduct for government personnel when he revealed that he had received bank transactions from the AMLC.

But Carandang insisted that he observed confidentiality on the probe and claimed that he was just reading through the documents shown to him by 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.

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

But Malacañang is not buying Carandang’s claim.
 
“The Office of the Ombudsman was being economical with the truth when it said it has observed confidentiality in its investigation of the graft complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte… These go against the facts,” Abella said.
 
Abella said Carandang's claim is contrary to the earlier statement of the AMLC that the overall deputy ombudsman sent a letter dated August 17 to initiate an investigation of Duterte’s alleged bank accounts.
 
“What all this confirms is that there is indeed a deliberate effort to discredit the president, mislead the public, and to create popular outrage against the duly elected Chief Executive,” the presidential spokesman said.
 
“The public’s mind seems to be being set,” he added.
 
Asked if Malacañang is directly accusing the ombudsman of discrediting the president, Abella said: “There is no accusation here, we are just simply pointing out… simply describing the landscape.”
 
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.

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