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

So went a statement by the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday, Sept. 29, in response to President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s threat in a television interview that he will organize a “commission” to investigate “corruption in the Ombudsman.

“The President’s announcement that he intends to create a commission to investigate the Ombudsman appears to have to do with this Office’s on-going investigation into issues that involve him,” the statement said, adding:

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

“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.”

“As to the documents in its possession, the Office stands by its word.”

“If the President has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear,” the statement finally said.

Mr. Duterte has time and again criticized Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, an appointee of former president Benigno S.C. Aquino, for what he described as her “partiality” and “selective justice” in the exercise of her functions.

In a taped and as-yet unaired television interview with journalist Erwin Tulfo, Mr. Duterte further stepped up his attacks, claiming corruption and bribery on the Ombudsman’s part in deciding cases against officials.

To be sure, the Ombudsman is also pursuing charges against Mr. Aquino in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano police operation. But Mr. Duterte has belittled this effort as being “designed to fail.”

CLARIFICATION
In a related development, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) on Friday issued a statement that sought to clarify it had not provided any documents to a pending complaint on hidden wealth against President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his family.

The statement came on the heels of remarks early this week by Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang that the Office of the Ombudsman is investigating the complaint that Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV filed in 2016, at the close of the election campaign that year.

The AMLC in its statement said it had received a letter by Mr. Carandang “requesting it to initiate investigation on subject accounts (in Mr. Trillanes’s complaint).”

But the statement also said, “We have categorically stated before that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is not the source of the documents and information attached by Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV in his Complaint, regarding the alleged bank accounts of President Rodrigo Duterte.”

“It has neither provided the Office of the Ombudsman with any report as a consequence of any investigation of subject accounts for any purpose,” AMLC also said, adding:

“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.”

AMLC also noted that, in the attachment to Mr. Trillanes’s complaint, “the alleged debits and credits representing outflows and inflows of funds were added together, thus, the resulting total amounts are wrong and misleading.”

“Meanwhile, we cannot make further comments considering the confidential nature of the matter,” AMLC said.

Mr. Trillanes, in response to the AMLC’s statement, said also on Friday: “Instead of issuing unnecessary statements, the AMLC should just expedite its final report regarding Duterte’s questionable bank transactions as requested by the Ombudsman, so that the public would know the truth about the Duterte bank accounts.”

“Now, as to its content, the supposed AMLC statement is improper in its necessity for release and in its tenor, which sounded like the AMLC was defending and absolving Duterte,” the senator also said. – with Mario M. Banzon