Solicitor General Jose Calida announced that the probe was terminated and closed last November. This was conveyed to him in a letter from Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, who handled the probe after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales inhibited herself. APEC/Released, File

Ombudsman drops Duterte wealth probe
Robertzon Ramirez, Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2018 - 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman did not find enough evidence to support the plunder case Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV filed against President Duterte in May 2016.

Solicitor General Jose Calida announced that the probe was terminated and closed last November. This was conveyed to him in a letter from Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, who handled the probe after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales inhibited herself.

Sources in the ombudsman said the fact-finding investigation on Trillanes’ allegations that Duterte, as a mayor, amassed over P2 billion by maintaining ghost employees was closed due to lack of evidence.

Calida said he wrote a letter to Carandang last Feb. 8 “out of curiosity” to ask for the status of the case.

“In reply to your letter dated 8 February 2018, please be informed that the investigation on the complaint entitled ‘Antonio Trillanes IV v. Rodrigo Roa Duterte’ and docketed as FF-M-16-0161 was already closed and terminated. Based on record, the recommendation to terminate the investigation was approved by Deputy Ombudsman Cyril Ramos on 29 November 2017,” Carandang’s reply read in part.

Trillanes, in May 2016, asked the ombudsman to look into the alleged employment of 11,000 ghost workers in the Davao City government. He claimed that, based on a study by accountants and financial specialists, more than P2.4 billion flowed into Duterte’s bank accounts from 2006 to 2015 because of this scheme.

However, the Office of the Ombudsman found insufficient evidence to continue the probe.

“When a complaint undergoing fact-finding is closed and terminated, it means that there is insufficient evidence to proceed further to preliminary investigation or administrative adjudication,” a source at the anti-graft office told The STAR.

Based on its procedures, an ombudsman fact-finding investigation would determine whether or not a complaint merits preliminary investigation for criminal cases or administrative adjudication for administrative ones.

Now that the anti-graft office has stopped the probe, Calida said it is just right for senators to stop doing the investigation Trillanes previously sought, adding that it would be a waste of time to scrutinize pieces of evidence that were already deemed “garbage.”

“Now that we know that the frivolous case was terminated by the ombudsman, Senator Trillanes seeks another Senate hearing to convince probably the public about his garbage evidence. The Senate should stop this investigation, they are wasting their time,” he said. 

But Trillanes disagreed, saying, “If what I have is nothing but garbage, then why are they panicking?”

He renewed his challenge to Duterte to sign a waiver to open his bank accounts if he had nothing to hide.

“And if I am wrong in my allegations, then I would resign immediately as senator and voluntarily walk into any jail of his choice,” the opposition senator declared, maintaining that he would not withdraw the resolution he filed asking the Senate committee on banks to investigate Duterte’s alleged secret bank accounts.

His colleague, Rep. Gary Alejano, said he was informed that the Anti-Money Laundering Council has turned over the Duterte family’s bank records to the anti-graft office, which refused to give him a copy of the complaint and its attachment, citing a policy on confidentiality.

“In due time, I am confident that those records will be revealed and will show that the bank accounts are true and correct. They will put to rest the hidden wealth issue against the President,” Alejano said.  

Tarnished integrity

Calida questioned the motive of Ombudsman Morales on withholding the status of the case and failing to announce its dismissal to the public, stressing that the case involved the President, whose integrity was tarnished by the malicious allegations. 

“When the President of the Philippines is the respondent and the case was dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman, why will you not disclose it to the public? Are they also coddling the complainant, Senator Trillanes?” Calida said. 

“She should explain why she kept it from the public,” he added. 

Morales inhibited herself from acting on any case filed against the Duterte family, citing conflict of interest as ground. She explained that her nephew, lawyer Manases Carpio, is the husband of Duterte’s daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. 

Asked if they plan to sue Morales, Calida said it is “still too early to tell” but emphasized that the ombudsman “did injustice” to President Duterte.

He added that it would be impractical to impeach her since Morales is set to retire in July. – Paolo Romero, Jess Diaz

Related video:

ANTONIO TRILLANES IV CONCHITA CARPIO-MORALES JOSE CALIDA MELCHOR ARTHUR CARANDANG
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