The Palace on Saturday said the Ombudsman should be open to any probe that would check into its alleged corrupt practices amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats to have the office investigated, or worse, its prosecutors arrested.
“The [Ombudsman] should be open to any probe that would check into alleged corrupt practices amongst its officials and employees to underscore that there are no sacred cows in the Government,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
While the Palace claims to recognize the Ombudsman’s constitutional duty “to probe erring government officials,” Abella said that they should “act promptly on complaints filed against officers or employees of the government.”
“The sad reality, however, is that the OMB is not exempt from allegations of corruption, which the President said, need to be investigated.”
On Friday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales shot back against the President’s threats to investigate her and her office, saying that she “won’t be intimidated” by the President’s latest string of attacks.
“The President’s announcement that he intends to form a commission to investigate the Ombudsman appears to be a retaliation to our ongoing investigation. We will, nonetheless proceed with the probe, as mandated by the Constitution,” the Ombudsman said.
The Ombudsman is also standing by the media statements of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang on bank transaction records of Duterte and his family. Carandang said the records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council show a flow of money amounting “billions.”
“As to the documents in our possession, we stand by our word,” the Ombudsman said.
The president earlier threatened to arrest officials of the Office of the Ombudsman should they resist “summons” of the independent commission that he will create next year to look after the alleged partiality and corruption in the agency.
“If you’ll tell me that you can’t be investigated—we’ll be having a problem,” the President told state broadcaster PTV-4 in an interview aired Friday night.
“I will apply summons from the court. If it won’t get implemented—I will arrest you. If you won’t attend to the commission’s [hearings], I will apply for subpoena powers from the courts,” Duterte said.
“If you won’t show up, I will order the police and the military to arrest you. That’s the only way. Sauce for the gander, sauce for the goose,” he added.
Duterte, who said that the corruption inside the Office of the Ombudsman is making a “mockery of the constitution,” said that he would create a creating a fact-finding commission similar to the Agrava Commission created by former President Ferdinand Marcos to start pressing charges against corrupt officials.
“I can create my own commission like the Agrava commission, and summon you,” the President said, adding that he will go to courts to have them cited for contempt.
Duterte claimed that efforts to pin down constitutional bodies will not create a “vacuum” similar to a constitutional crisis, since these only upholds the need for public accountability.
“I will be asking you. who will be investigating the Ombudsman? You be the judge. We will have this separate body to investigate them next year,” he said.
Duterte said that his rift with the Ombudsman started after he learned that no member of the moribund Liberal Party is being investigated for the misuse of funds through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which was struck down as illegal by the Supreme Court.
“Yung kay Gringo [Honasan], agrabyado talaga,” he said. “Tapos umipisahan niyo ko Trillanes? Go ahead,” he added.
“There should be somebody to tell that your’e sitting on your ass doing nothing—except to go after the appointing power that’s isn’t yours,” he added, referring to the previous administration.