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Opposition senators: Deputy ombudsman suspension mean to cover truth

Opposition senators on Monday slammed the suspension of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Carandang for his improer disclosure of "unauthenticated" information on the supposed multimillion-peson transactions in the bank accounts of President Rodrigo Duterte and his family. File

Opposition senators: Deputy ombudsman suspension mean to cover truth

Audrey Morallo (Philstar.com) - January 29, 2018 - 8:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition senators on Monday claimed that the suspension of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Carandang, who is tasked to probe the alleged multimillion-peso transactions in the bank accounts of President Rodrigo Duterte and his family, could be a means to stop him from revealing the truth.

In a joint statement, Sens. Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino, Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros condemned the filing of charges against Carandang which led to his 90-day suspension by the Office of Executive Secretary.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV meanwhile labeled as "the height of ignorance" the defense of presidential spokesperson Harry Roque that the suspension was legal since a Supreme Court decision had already sustained the supervision of the Office of the President over deputy ombudsmen.

"This appears to be a form of harassment of  a government figure who simply wants transparency among officials especially the highest officer of the government," Pangilinan, the president of the opposition Liberal Party, said in Filipino.

READ:  Trillanes: Suspension of Carandang, man heading Duterte wealth probe, 'impeachable'

Aquino stressed that it was critical that the Office of the Ombudsman, the government's anti-graft agency, remained independent and free in its efforts to find out if elected officials of the government had hidden wealth.

He also urged the administration to allow the ombudsman to do its job of investigating elected officials.

Hontiveros wondered if the filing of cases against Carandang could be a confirmation from Malacañang about the authenticity of the records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

“How can anybody be guilty of divulging valuable information that, according to Malacanang, is fake?" Hontiveros said.

On Monday, the Palace formally charged Carandang for his premature disclosure of "unauthenticated" documents allegedly detailing the multimillion transactions of bank accounts owned by Duterte and his family.

Roque said that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea filed a case against Carandang for grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for misuse of confidential information and release of false information on the bank accounts.

Roque also defended the legality of the move, saying that the Supreme Court, through its decision in the case Emilio Gonzales III v. Office of the President with G.R. 196231 on Sept. 4, 2012, recognized that Deputy Ombudsmen were subject to the removal of the president.

According to the Ombudsman Act of 1989, "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."

However, this provision of the law was already declared "unconstitutional" for granting the president disciplinary jurisdiction.

"It doesn't mean that since the Deputy Ombudsman is not an impeachable officer, therefore he is under the administrative authority of the Executive branch. That is the height of ignorance," Trillanes said. "Roque should re-read his Constitution."

The opposition senator said that Roque's logic would mean that the court administrator, Court of Appeals justices and Regional Trial Court judges, who are unimpeachable officers, could be suspended by the Executive.

"Brilliant!" says Trillanes, who pounded Duterte last year and in 2016 over the president's supposed hidden wealth.

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