Bandillo: Probing Duterte’s wealth

By RANDY FELIX P. MALAYAO
www.nordis.net

“Sorry, Mr. President, but this Office shall not be intimidated.” 

This was the response of the Office of the Ombudsman in a strongly worded statement it issued amid pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte that he would form a commission to investigate alleged corruption in the anti-graft agency.

Duterte’s stance followed the announcement of the Office of the Ombudsman that it has began its probe into the President’s wealth.

“I will create a commission, if you do not—I will apply for summons sa court, if hindi ninyo iyan ma-implement, I will, I will arrest you, ‘pag hindi ka sumipot doon sa commission (na) iyon,” Duterte said in an interview taped early this week in Malacañang.

“’Pag hindi kayo sumipot, I will order the police and the military to arrest you.”

Is the president in a state of panic?

Undaunted

“This Office, nonetheless, shall proceed with the probe, as mandated by the Constitution,” the Office of the Ombudsman said.

“If the President has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear,” the Office of the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman is currently looking into Duterte’s wealth, acting on the complaint filed by Trillanes.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) earlier denied that it had provided the Office of the Ombudsman any information about Duterte’s bank records. 

The AMLC said its secretariat only received last September 6 the August 17-letter from Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, requesting the council “to initiate investigation on subject accounts.”

“We have yet to evaluate the request, and the initiation of an investigation, as well as the release of any report on the subject will depend on such evaluation,” the AMLC said.

But the anti-graft body stood by its earlier statement that it possessed documents from AMLC pertaining to Mr. Duterte’s questionable bank transactions.

Sufficient basis for probe

Based on the complaint filed by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang said they have found sufficient basis to start its probe on the alleged multi-billion-peso wealth of Duterte. 

Carandang said initial bank records from the AMLC showed the flow of money through deposits and withdrawals from Duterte’s sons, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo and Sebastian Duterte, and his joint accounts with his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

He added that the accounts of Duterte’s common-law wife, Honeylet Avancena, and their daughter, Veronica, were also included in the records.

The Ombudsman, nonetheless, welcomed Duterte’s remarks in an effort to cleanse of lead government watchdog of corrupt officials.

“This Office, all the same, welcomes, as it has always welcomed, efforts to help it cleanse its ranks. Its Internal Affairs Board has, in fact, entrapped and removed Ombudsman officials and employees for various offenses,” the statement said. 

IBP support

The Ombudsman has found an ally in the president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, who said Duterte’s idea of creating a body to probe the alleged corruption could be constitutionally suspect. 

“It would effectively defeat the independence and flexibility needed by the Ombudsman in the discharge of her duties,” Fajardo declared.

“As an independent body, it must be insulated from political pressure – most especially from the highest political office of the land,” Fajardo added.

Fajardo, alluding to Duterte, also said: “Public officials must not be onion-skinned…Upon assumption of public office, a government official holds his life open to public scrutiny.”

As a constitutional body, the Office of the Ombudsman enjoys fiscal autonomy.

Disturbing developments

SBMA Chair Martin Dino has been unceremoniously replaced by Gordon protege Atty Wilma Eisma. Rubbing salt to the wound, Malacañang denies it has offered Dino the post of DILG Usec Chair for Barangay Operations. Quo vadis? Sabi siguro ni Dino, ‘I wish I could turn back the Clock!’ 

Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno has been barred by House Committee of Justice to engage the services of lawyers in cross-examining the adverse witnesses on the impeachment case filed against her at the House. This is an emasculation of House Rules, tantamount to denial of due process. Even the Chief Justice needs good, competent lawyers. 

Davao City Councilor Nilo “Small” Abellera, who has prominently figured in the shabu smuggling controversy, has been stripped of all committee positions in the City Council by Vice Mayor Polong Duterte in the council’s last session this week. Apparently the Councilor has made himself scarce or has been missing.   

DOST Sec Rodolfo Salalima was forced to tender his resignation for “supporting Globe”. Apparently he also blocked some Malacanang-favored foreign investors. 

Federalism, I heard, is for the perpetuation in office of you know who.  Ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same. # nordis.net

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