Panelo: Duterte cannot be probed for acts as Davao City mayor

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 03 2017 10:50 PM

MANILA - Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Tuesday said the ongoing Ombudsman probe against President Rodrigo Duterte violates the doctrine of immunity and is irregular because it tackles alleged acts committed by the president prior to assuming power.

Speaking to reporters, Panelo said aside from the supposed irregularities in the anti-graft body’s conduct of probe into Duterte’s wealth, it is also “constitutionally impermissible” for various reasons.

“The investigation, to our mind, is in violation of the doctrine of immunity of the sitting president. That principles anchored on the fact that the sitting president cannot be saddled with suits because it will not only restrict his presidential time but in fact hamper his efficiency in administering the affairs of the state,” Panelo told reporters.

“While it is true that the Ombudsman has investigatory powers for the purpose of filing a complaint, the subject of the investigation being conducted presently, however, are acts allegedly committed by the President when he was not yet the President.”

Panelo was referring to the accusation of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that Duterte had undeclared wealth even when he was still mayor of Davao City.

Among Trillanes’ accusations was that Duterte raked in millions of pesos by having about 11,000 “ghost employees” in the local government. The senator filed a plunder complaint against Duterte over this issue.  

According to Trillanes, Duterte had over P200 million in several accounts at the Bank of the Philippine Islands Julia Vargas branch that was not declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Panelo clarified that an investigation may still be launched against the President “for purposes of filing an impeachment if the acts refer to his acts as President, not acts when he was not yet president.”

Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang said in a recent interview that the Office of the Ombudsman has started looking into the wealth of the President and his family based on a complaint by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. 

Citing data from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) last year, he said the Duterte family’s transactions amount to hundreds of millions of pesos from different banks between 2006 until 2016. He, however, clarified that it was hard to say how much the deposits were in total, since money went in and out of the accounts.

The AMLC, however, said it has not yet released any report to the Ombudsman this year as it has yet to evaluate its request for an investigation of the President's and his family's bank accounts.

Under fire for supposedly divulging confidential information to the media, Carandang said the anti-graft body observed confidentiality in the conduct of the investigation. 

Just as the anti-graft body revealed its probe into the President’s wealth, Duterte last week said he would create a commission to investigate alleged corruption in Morales' office.  

Duterte on Monday also said he will not obey the Ombudsman because she is corrupt and she is holding illegally obtained evidence.

Morales had inhibited from the case since her nephew, Manases Carpio, is the husband of the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. Still, she asserted that her office would pursue the probe.

Duterte also insisted he is not hiding his wealth from the public, adding he can be shot if his wealth turns out to be beyond P40 million.