Ombudsman to lawmakers: Go ahead, impeach me

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales is challenging the administration-dominated House of Representatives to initiate an impeachment complaint against her if its members think she has committed wrongdoing and is no longer fit for the tough anti-corruption job.

“Kayong mga congressmen, you can initiate an impeachment complaint against me,” she told members of the House appropriations committee headed by Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles as she defended her office’s “fiscal autonomy.” 

Morales, an appointee of former president Benigno Aquino III, will finish her seven-year term in mid-2018.

While the ombudsman is an aunt-in-law of Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte-Carpio, reliable sources from the camp of President Duterte said he is not impressed with the country’s chief anti-graft buster.

The former Davao City mayor reportedly has had information that it was Morales who gave monetary authorities the go-signal to disclose his alleged multibillion-peso account during the campaign period. Only the ombudsman has the legal authority to take such action.

Furthermore, Duterte reportedly believes a member of Morales’ family has been facilitating the issuance of favorable ruling for a substantial fee.

The ombudsman was defending her office’s P2.2-billion budget for 2017, following attempts by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to have the ombudsman return savings to the national treasury.

However, in her effort to defend her budget, Morales got the legislators on her side.

“Why are you are now curtailing when that (anti-corruption) is the thrust of this administration,” House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas told DBM lawyer Marian Chavez.

“The ombudsman, being an independent constitutional body, enjoys financial or fiscal autonomy. We cannot reduce their budget, we have to increase their budget every year,” Fariñas stressed.

In an interview with reporters, Morales said she is not bothered by Duterte’s pronouncements that the administration of Aquino had been very selective in prosecuting those involved in the pork barrel fund scam.

“I don’t know what he means by revisiting the Napoles case. To us, it’s vague, so no comment. By the way, we’re not worried because what we did was legal and in accordance with law,” she told House reporters after the budget hearing last week.

Chavez, in her testimony before the committee, said the ombudsman has to return its savings to the national treasury, as it has no authority to keep unspent funds.

She said based on the Constitution, the ombudsman “is not among those authorized to use their savings.”   

But Morales explained there was no Office of the Ombudsman yet when the Constitution was conceived in 1987.

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