MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday said there is a “deliberate effort” to discredit President Rodrigo Duterte as it rejected the Office of the Ombudsman’s claim that it observed confidentiality in investigating his and his family's alleged wealth.
“The Office of the Ombudsman was being economical with the truth when it said it has observed confidentiality in its investigation of the graft complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte,” Abella said in a news conference in Malacañang.
Abella said the anti-graft body's recent actions confirm “that there is indeed a deliberate effort to discredit the President, mislead the public, and to create popular outrage against the duly elected Chief Executive."
“The public’s mind seems to be being set. The Office of the Ombudsman is showing its true political color. We must remind them that it is an independent and anti-graft body that is supposed to conduct an impartial and fair investigation,” Abella said in reference to recent statements by the lead Ombudsman investigator handling the Duterte case.
“It should not play into the hands of those who cannot accept the fact that the President won in the 2016 elections. It should not be party to a demolition job. We have seen this before. This is déjà vu.”
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.
Citing documents from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), 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 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 claimed the anti-graft body observed confidentiality in the conduct of the investigation.
In a statement issued Monday, Carandang said the complaint was filed even before the May 2016 elections.
He added that he was reading through documents shown to him by the media during an ambush interview "in response to media’s inquiry on the status of the complaint after more than a year since its filing and in stating that a request was made to [the AMLC] as part of the regular investigative process."
Abella, however, said Carandang's latest statement goes against the facts.
He cited how Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales stood by her office’s claim that it was already in possession of documents on the wealth of the President and his family.
Abella added that Carandang’s claim was contrary to the statement of the AMLC secretariat that he sent a letter dated August 17, 2017 to initiate an investigation into the President’s alleged bank accounts.
DUTERTE VS OMBUDSMAN
Duterte on Monday 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.
“It could not be more than P40 million. It is a lifetime saving. Seventy-two [na] ako. I started to work when I was 27. Naging prosecutor ako. Pati kasali ang mga minana kong lupa. You can shoot me. You can overthrow me if you want kapag sumobra ako doon,” he said in a speech in Marawi City.
Duterte has said he would not submit to the Ombudsman's investigation. He has also said he would create a commission to investigate alleged corruption in Morales' office.
In response to Duterte’s tirades, Morales said her office would not be intimidated and that the President should not be afraid if he has nothing to hide.
Morales has received support from Duterte’s political foes and Integrated Bar of the Philippines President Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, who said the President’s plan to set up a commission to investigate the Office of the Ombudsman was “constitutionally suspect.”
Abella, meanwhile, told reporters in a chance interview that the President was not being vindictive when he decided to turn the tables on the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Vindictiveness is a perception. You know, he may have strong words. He may sound emotional regarding these certain matters. He is a human being with full range of emotions but, however, you have to credit him [because] he goes back to the law,” he said.