MANILA – Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte believes that his opponents are using Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to oust him.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella gave this explanation about Duterte’s dare over the weekend to the chief magistrate and the head graft buster for them to resign together.
“Well, it’s his prerogative to make that call. The President believes the Supreme Court Justice and the Ombudsman have allowed themselves to be used by certain political forces to discredit him and his administration in order to spark public outrage and eventually oust him from the Presidency,” Abella said in a news conference.
“In other words, he finds them suspect. And it is his prerogative to ask them to resign.”
In a speech before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Davao City chapter last Saturday, Duterte alleged that Sereno and Morales had allowed themselves to be "used" in the corruption allegations against him.
"Huwag na tayong magbolohan, iyung pa-ek-ek ninyo sa publiko. I said I am ready to lose the presidency, my honor, my life... I now challenge Carpio to resign with me at itong si Supreme Court justice," the President said.
(Let us not fool ourselves and the public. I've said that I am ready to lose the presidency, my honor my life. I now challenge Carpio to resign with me, as well as the Supreme Court justice.)
"Hoy! Hindi ako mamatay kapag hindi ako Presidente... Kami man ang nagpapagulo, nagpapagamit iyang dalawa e. Eh di magresign tayo. I challenge the two, we will go to Congress in a simple ceremony. We sign the letter of resignation. Sige nga, then let us open all the books, pati inyo" he added.
(I will not die if I am not President. We are creating chaos, because the 2 have allowed themselves to be used. Let's just resign then. I challenge the 2, we will go to Congress in a simple ceremony. We sign the letter of resignation. Come, let us open all our books, even yours.)
The SC, Duterte said, is headed by a "corrupt" official whose statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth failed to declare a professional fee for for representing the transportation department when the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc (Piatco) sued them.
Sereno's lawyers earlier denied the charge, saying the lawyer's fees for working on the Piatco case were received in tranches. Lawyer Winnie Salumbides added the Piatco payment already had withholding taxes and that the Chief Justice had a tax credit because she paid more than what was due.
Abella said he is confident the President has sufficient evidence to back his claim against Sereno and that the chief executive was not subjecting the head of judiciary to trial by publicity.
Duterte meanwhile blasted the Ombudsman for allegedly administering "selective justice" in prioritizing the corruption investigation against him.
"Morales, unahin mo iyung mga kaso nun na nai-file matagal na. You are on a selective justice. ******. Bakit nauna iyang sa amin na hindi pa totoo?" he said.
Morales has maintained the she has been independent in her decisions and is not biased towards anyone.
Morales’ office recently claimed 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.
The AMLC, however, said it has not 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.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had inhibited from the case since her nephew, Manases Carpio, is the husband of the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
The Office of the Ombudsman’s revelation prompted the President to threaten to investigate the anti-graft body for possible corruption. Duterte, an impeachable official, also said he would not submit himself to the investigation being conducted by the anti-graft body.
Despite Duterte’s harsh words against the Ombudsman, Abella said the President still respects the institution, “however the practices of certain people there may be suspect.”