IT ALL started with the Office of the Ombudsman, through Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang, confirming that his office is looking into the complaint lodged by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV against President Rodrigo Duterte and has in the process received bank transaction records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) but not its “final investigation report.” I took that to mean what the anti-graft office received was merely raw information.
That obviously got the goat of the President, who only a day or two before had admitted having millions of pesos in the bank even when he was still in high school--the money having come from his share from the sale of his family’s landholdings. As is his wont, he went into a rant and threatened to form a commission that supposedly would investigate the alleged irregularities in the anti-graft office.
In what has become a pattern in his presidency, Duterte’s rant came even before the public could digest his claim of possessing millions of pesos at a young age. Note that during the campaign period for the 2016 presidential elections, the claim was that he was poor. Meanwhile, the threat to form a body to investigate the Office of the Ombudsman generated another debate, this time on whether his plan is allowed by the 1987 Constitution.
A statement purportedly coming from the AMLC later added fuel to the fire. It essentially made a liar out of Carandang by denying that it has provided the anti-graft office “with any report as a consequence of any investigation of subject accounts for any purpose,” adding that it had “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 word “request” in the statement presumably refers to what Carandang earlier stated, that the anti-graft office had asked the AMLC for its “final report” on the Duterte family’s bank transactions. Incidentally, some netizens questioned the authenticity of the AMLC statement, which was not signed by any of its officers. But since the council didn’t issue any denial, then the statement denying Carandang’s earlier claim must be authentic.
The Office of the Ombudsman responded to the President’s rant by issuing a statement that opened with the line, “Sorry Mr. President, but this Office shall not be intimidated.” It added: “The President’s announcement that he intends to create a commission to investigate the Ombudsman appears to have to do with this Office’s ongoing investigation into issues that involve him. The Office nonetheless shall proceed with the probe as mandated by the Constitution.”
That fired up the President into threatening a shakedown of the anti-graft office.
His critics consider this as his attempt to divert the issue on his bank accounts and stop the Ombudsman’s probe. His supporters see this as a just response by an innocent man to an obvious persecution effort. Whatever his reason is, I hope he would consider the nation’s interest in whatever his next moves would be. Him engaging the Office of the Ombudsman in, to use a Cebuano cockfight term, “patayan” could spark a chaos that would be bad for the country.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on October 02, 2017.