MANILA- Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Thursday dismissed President Rodrigo Duterte's allegations of selective justice against her office, particularly in the handling of "pork barrel" scam cases.
In a rare press conference, Morales defended her office from the President's criticism, saying under the Ombudsman Act, high-profile cases such as those linked to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam should be given priority.
“Under the law that I mentioned, we give priority to high-profile cases, high government officials who hold supervisory positions or cases that involve huge amounts of money or big property,” she said.
The Ombudsman handles cases against government officials.
Duterte on Tuesday accused Morales' office of corruption and selective justice, citing its alleged bias for certain camps facing complaints at the agency. He even challenged Morales to vacate her post.
Morales added that the initial PDAF scam cases were based on statements of businesswoman and alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
“I recall that when I was new there and the PDAF cases came out, Miss Napoles came out with an affidavit targeting 3 senators," she said, in reference to cases filed against former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon "Bong" Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada.
The three are currently on trial at the Sandiganbayan. The Ombudsman later filed several other cases against lawmakers tagged in the fund diversion scheme.
Morales also contradicted Duterte's allegations that cases under her office seemed to move at a slow pace, saying she had to address a backlog.
“You know, I inherited more than 19,000 cases dating back as old as 1999. Would you believe? Maraming natulog, naturally we had to attend to them kasi aged na nga eh, on top of the fact that in the interim, about 35,000 cases were filed. And I’m proud to say as I have said again, ang pending namin as of December 2016 was more than 6,000 cases,” Morales said.
Responding to the President's challenge for her to resign, Morales said she is entitled to a full-term even if she only replaced former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. The latter resigned in 2011 in the face of an impending impeachment trial.
Morales, appointed to her post in 2011 by former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, said the law allows her to serve for 7 years.
“We are following the law, 'yung Ombudsman Act of 1989, Section 8, paragraph number 3... Sinusunod lang namin 'yung batas na 'yun,” Morales said.
Duterte previously hit Morales for criticizing him over his habit of threatening to kill drug suspects. -- With reports from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News