Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Office of the Executive Secretary has formally charged Carandang with grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for misuse of confidential information and disclosing false information last Jan. 26. The Government Inspectorate of Vietnam/Released

Palace suspends deputy ombudsman
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has suspended Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang for 90 days for allegedly disclosing false information about the bank transactions of President Duterte and his family.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Office of the Executive Secretary has formally charged Carandang with grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for misuse of confidential information and disclosing false information last Jan. 26.

Roque said Carandang also violated Section 3-E of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which penalizes any act that causes undue injury to any party and gives a private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of official functions.

The deputy overall ombudsman was also accused of divulging confidential information to unauthorized persons and releasing them ahead of the authorized release date.

Carandang was given 10 days to answer the preventive suspension order, which took effect immediately.

The suspension stemmed from a complaint filed by lawyers Manolito Luna and Elijio Mallari, who accused Carandang of “falsely and maliciously claiming” that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) had released a report on Duterte’s alleged bank deposits.

Citing the formal complaint, Roque said Carandang was ordered suspended for confirming that his office received Duterte’s bank transactions from the AMLC.

He said the overall deputy ombudsman had also claimed that the amount of transactions involving Duterte’s supposed bank accounts could reach billions of pesos.

A day after Carandang made the statement, AMLC confirmed receiving on Aug. 17, 2017 a letter from the deputy overall ombudsman requesting an investigation of the bank accounts.

But the AMLC denied releasing the documents attached in the complaint against Duterte by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

“We have categorically stated before that the AMLC is not the source of the documents and information attached by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in his complaint regarding the alleged bank accounts of President Duterte,” Roque said.

“It (AMLC) has neither provided the Office of the Ombudsman with any report as a consequence of any investigation of subject accounts for any purpose,” he added.

Roque argued that debits and credits representing outflows and inflows in the alleged Duterte bank accounts were added together, “thus the resulting total amounts are wrong and misleading.”

He insisted that the Office of the President has the authority to impose sanctions against deputies of the ombudsman.

He said the Supreme Court ruling on the Emilio Gonzales III versus Office of the President in 2012 made it clear that the President could discipline a deputy ombudsman.

“Only the ombudsman is impeachable. The deputy ombudsmen are not impeachable,” Roque said.

“If you don’t make the deputy ombudsman liable under the Office of the President, who will make them liable if they are not impeachable officers?” he added.

However, in 2014 the Supreme Court has ruled that the administrative authority being exercised by the Office of the President over the deputy ombudsman is unconstitutional.

This means the chief executive cannot discipline the deputy ombudsman.

“The Court held that the Office of the President has no power of discipline over the office of the deputy ombudsman and that the Office of the President has power of discipline over the office of the special prosecutor,” an advisory from the high court’s public information office read.

Roque, however, insisted that the Office of the President can discipline all non-impeachable appointees.

‘Impeachable’

Trillanes said Duterte’s suspension of Carandang was an impeachable offense as it violated Article 11, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution, which emphasizes the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman and its deputies.

He said the Supreme Court has already resolved the issue of sanctions against the ombudsman.

“Clearly, this is another Duterte tactic that’s meant to bully democratic institutions into submission so he could go on with his dictatorial and corrupt ways,” Trillanes said. – Paolo Romero

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