Ombudsman pushes back against Duterte
“Anong pakialam niya?” (That’s none of his business.)
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had these words on Friday for President Duterte, who warned her office that policemen should be summoned for investigation only with his permission.
Morales, in a rare talk with reporters, said her office was legally empowered to direct law enforcers to cooperate with investigations or answer allegations.
She said policemen’s failure to answer subpoenas came at the risk of waiving their right to file counteraffidavits to defend themselves at the investigation stage.
“Under the law, we have subpoena powers. We have orders for particular officials, including police and soldiers, to show up or to file pleadings,” Morales said.
“If they don’t file pleadings, that’s their lookout. To say they need prior approval of the President, that’s the lookout of those to whom he is addressing that,” she added.
Morales said her office would follow the normal procedure on cases where respondents fail to file their counteraffidavits, regardless of Mr. Duterte’s stand.
If the complainant’s uncontroverted evidence provides enough basis for a finding of probable cause, the case will be pursued in court, Morales said.
If it’s not enough to serve as basis by itself, the complaint will be dismissed as usual, she said.
“If there is probable cause on the basis of the evidence of the complainant, we will continue filing a case in court,” she said. “Even if he (the accused policeman) doesn’t answer, we will dismiss the case.”
Stressing that procedures will still be followed, Morales said: “It’s up to the [policeman] if he would listen [to Duterte].”
Threat of abolition
Mr. Duterte, during a press conference after addressing a joint session of Congress on Monday, said the Ombudsman should “refrain from citing [policemen] in contempt” for not showing up in investigations, claiming that he had “the authority to give the final say whether they will attend or not.”
He threatened to abolish the Ombudsman and another constitutional office, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
“So, don’t force (me) to clash with you. Clear it with me first. Everything or whoever,” he said.
The Ombudsman handles graft complaints against public officials and the CHR human rights abuses.
The Ombudsman is investigating a complaint brought against Mr. Duterte by confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) hit man Edgar Matobato.
The former militiaman accused Mr. Duterte of murder, kidnapping, torture and violation of Republic Act No. 9851, the law on crimes against humanity.
Matobato charged that Mr. Duterte formed the DDS in March 1988 when Mr. Duterte was mayor of Davao City and ordered the killing of suspected criminals and family opponents.
He said the squad had killed about 1,000 suspected criminals, for which he and other hit men were paid by Mr. Duterte.
At least two complaints were also filed in March against police officials in Quezon City and Caloocan City by families of victims of extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.
Mr. Duterte has been making antagonistic statements against the Ombudsman since Morales called him out in a July 13 interview on a Japanese television program for “goading people to kill people.”
He began his verbal attacks on July 17, daring Morales to name a law that prohibits him from threatening criminals.
That night he also insinuated that Morales ordered the indictment of former President Benigno Aquino III for “silly” charges of graft and usurpation of authority for allowing suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to direct a counterterrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, that left 44 elite police commandos dead on Jan. 25, 2015.
‘I’m not a coward’
Mr. Duterte claimed the charges, which were less grave than the original complaint of 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, were laid only “to ensure failure” in favor of Aquino.
In her talk with reporters on Friday, Morales said she would not heed the demand of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) that she inhibit from Aquino’s case, as the July 14 resolution was still pending appeal in her office.
Asked about the VACC’s demand, she said: “Why would I inhibit? On what ground? I’m not a coward.”
As for Mr. Duterte’s statement about the charges against Aquino, she said: “Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I am not listening to anybody. I go by evidence.”
Morales has long been accused of “selective justice” when it comes to Aquino, who appointed her Ombudsman in July 2011.
The VACC, which aided the filing of the complaints against Aquino, said on July 19 that it would proceed to bring a complaint for the impeachment of Morales, a move that needs the endorsement of a member of the House of Representatives.
Morales spoke at a symposium organized by the International Development Law Organization in Quezon City on Friday.
In the audience were US Embassy officials and Sandiganbayan Senior Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz.
In her speech, Morales dropped vague comments about groups who seek to “silence” the Ombudsman and encourage cynicism about efforts against corruption.
“Let us never allow the monstrous effect of corruption to blind us that all hope is gone because there is no truth to that,” Morales said. “If there is, it is a convenient excuse of a brave soul that tolerates the existence of corruption.”
“The Ombudsman can never be silenced,” she said. “They can attempt to repress the messenger, but they cannot suppress the message.”
Asked who she was referring to, Morales refused to say.
“There are many who criticize me. Akala nila kung sino sila (They think they are powerful),” she said. “You should be the Ombudsman instead. It’s a thankless job.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.