MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to have allegedly corrupt officials from the Office of the Ombudsman arrested by the military if they will snub summons to be issued by a commission he plans to create to investigate anomalies at the anti-graft agency.
Duterte has accused unnamed officials at the Office of Ombudsman of corruption, victimizing government officials, policemen and soldiers facing various charges.
He said he will set up a commission that will have the power to summon Ombudsman officials accuse of corruption.
“What is the remedy of the Filipino kung kayo ang mag-sige hingi? Don’t force my hand into it. I will set up a commission to investigate the Ombudsman,” Duterte said in a recorded interview on state-run television aired Friday evening.
“In the name of public interest and fair play, there ought to be a body who will investigate you also. Obviously there is an anomaly. There is a vacuum eh.”
The President said he might be forced to seek powers from the court to summon Ombudsman officials “as an administrative remedial measure”.
"Pag hindi ka sumipot doon sa commission na 'yun, if I do not have the subpoena powers, then I will apply for a subpoena powers from the courts," Duterte said. "Pag hindi kayo sumipot, aarestuhin --- I will order the police and the military to arrest you."
Duterte said his plan is not dictatorial.
“Hindi diktador ‘yan. Justice for one, justice for all,” he said.
Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, has dismissed the proposal of the President to set up a commission probing the Ombudsman as “constitutionally suspect.”
Under the Constitution, the Ombudsman is considered an independent body that enjoys autonomy. Its head may only be removed through impeachment.
The incumbent Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio Morales, is an appointee of Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino III.
Duterte has accused the Ombudsman of bias against officials of the current administration. He believes opposition figures, mostly allies of the erstwhile ruling Liberal Party, were being spared by the anti-graft body from prosecution.
Duterte’s said these tough words against the anti-graft body just as the latter revealed its move to have the President and his family’s wealth investigated.
The anti-graft body earlier said that it has started looking into the wealth of the President and his family, in cooperation with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang said the Duterte family’s transactions amount to hundreds of millions of pesos from different banks between 2006 until 2016. But he clarified that it was hard to say how much the deposits were in total, since money went in and out of the accounts.
"We can confirm that we received the bank transactions from AMLC, transactions generated by AMLC for intelligence purposes," Carandang said.
He said the transaction data came from the AMLC in 2016.
"'Yung billions kasi, baka in-add nila yung lahat ng transactions, may P20 million, P20 million, P20 million, P60 million, pag in-add mo, aabot talaga ng billions, may P50 million, ang dami," he said.
The Ombudsman has formally requested AMLC for a formal report on the bank transactions.
The AMLC later said it was not the source of Trillanes' documents in his complaint against Duterte and has yet to submit a full report to the Ombudsman regarding the transaction data.
Morales had inhibited from the case since her nephew, Manases Carpio, is the husband of the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
'Ombudsman not intimidated'
Morales on Friday said her office would proceed with the investigation of the wealth allegedly kept by Duterte and his family despite the chief executive's plan to have a commission investigate alleged anomalies in her office.
"Sorry, Mr. President but this office shall not be intimidated," Morales said in a statement.
"The President's announcement that he intends to form a commission to investigate the Ombudsman appears to be a retaliation to our on-going investigation. We will, nonetheless, proceed with the probe, as mandated by the Constitution," Morales said.
Responding to the President's allegations, Morales said her office is open to efforts that would help "cleanse our ranks," adding that the agency has removed employees who have committed offenses.
"Our Internal Affairs Board has entrapped and removed Ombudsman officials and employees for various offenses," she said.
"As to the documents in our possession, we stand by our word. If the President has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear," she added.