Chief Justice, Ombudsman part of ouster plot? Duterte thinks so

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Ombudsman-Chief Justice
File photo combination of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno -- AFP

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte believes the Ombudsman and Chief Justice are being used by political forces to remove him from the presidency, his spokesman said on Monday, Oct. 2. Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella said in a press briefing that even though Mr. Duterte respects the Ombudsman as an institution, he emphasized that certain practices of people inside the institution may be the reason why he refuses to submit himself to investigation.“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.”

“In other words, he finds them suspect. And it is his prerogative to ask them to resign. He respects the institution. However, the practices of certain people, (that) may be suspect,” Mr. Abella said.

On Saturday, Mr. Duterte dared Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno to resign with him. He vowed anew not to submit himself to the Ombudsman’s investigation, repeating his accusation that the constitutional body has engaged in corrupt activities by accepting bribes from several law enforcers and lawmakers.

In a statement, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo said “the President is not threatening the Office of the Ombudsman or any of its officers. He is merely reprimanding the body for not following the appropriate procedure for investigation and strongly reminding it to strictly observe the process as mandated by law and its own internal rules.”

Mr. Panelo also said that it is just proper for Mr. Duterte “to refrain from submitting himself to the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman given that the procedure being undertaken by is flawed at the onset.”

Mr. Abella for his part said Mr. Duterte has documents to back his allegations against Ms. Sereno.

“I’m sure he does. He’s a lawyer. He knows he must speak out of substantial evidence,” Mr. Abella said. — Rosemarie A. Zamora