Thursday July 19, 2018

Seares: Settling row over illegal wealth

PRESIDENT Duterte has offered two ways to end the controversy over his alleged illegal wealth, which Sen. Antonio Trillanes first raised during the 2016 election campaign and continued with his complaint before the ombudsman. These wouldn’t work:

■ Duterte and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno with the president and others showing their bank passbooks before lawmakers.

■ Morales and Sereno resigning with Duterte at the same time.

The measures are abnormal and unorthodox. They may resign, yes, but the simultaneous quitting is surreal and seismic and won’t identify the corrupt and how corrupt. And neither will any of it happen.

Bank books

“Just give us a table,” Duterte said, and it will expose “the really corrupt.” Really. All their bank books or selected ones? And how does it assure that all their assets can be figured out on that table? Money can be stashed away in a lot of ways, with and without paper trail. And documents they’d offer would be expectedly self-serving.

Unanimity of consent would be difficult, with no rules laid down to assure full disclosure or precisely because of such rules. “Ano ‘ko, gago,” Duterte once retorted when asked if he’d show his medical records.

Leaping off cliff

Resignation is also dubious solution to the problem. The president is formally and officially accused of unexplained wealth but the others--Morales, Sereno and Trillanes are not.

Duterte said he won’t submit to the probing and instead threatened to have the ombudsman investigated by his office (which can’t be done), calling Morales corrupt and threatening to arrest the agency’s personnel who won’t submit to a Palace probe. And would Morales and Carpio jump off the cliff with Duterte? Maybe again this is all rant although the presidential spokesman’s usual explanation has yet to come.

Perhaps Morales is what the president says she is. He should know her well. His son-in-law is a Morales nephew. That, aside from the president’s vast spying arsenal.

Rules and procedures exist for removing the unfit public official. If they have evidence against the ombudsman, she can be impeached and tried. CJ Sereno is already facing such a complaint in the House and she has responded to the accusations with arguments, not threats. Duterte may already be building evidence against Morales. With a solid evidence base against the ombudsman, the public may shed off suspicion that this is all spiteful counter-attack.

Cost of disruption

Turmoil in the top leadership of three constitutionally independent bodies (ombudsman, Supreme Court and Comelec), raging at the same time, is unprecedented. The vacuum from a mass resignation of the highest leaders may not bring down any of the institutions but the tremor would shake the nation totally. And the cost may only be imagined for now.

Late today, the president was reported to have pushed Morales’s impeachment. There. That’s the means under the Constitution. The odds may be stacked against her, with the House being controlled by the ruling party but she’ll have the chance to refute the charges against her before the Senate sitting in an impeachment trial.