Rights lawyer sees despotic ploy in Duterte threat
Human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno on Sunday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats against independent constitutional bodies tasked with making government officials accountable were meant to “intimidate these institutions.”
Diokno was referring to the impeachment moves against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the President’s announcement that he would create a commission that would look into his allegations of corruption in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“By doing those two actions, he (Mr. Duterte) is trying to destroy independence,” said Diokno, a son of the late Free Legal Assistance Group founder Jose “Ka Pepe” W. Diokno, a former senator who opposed Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law.
The younger Diokno described Mr. Duterte’s threat to investigate the Office of the Ombudsman as “a despotic ploy to muzzle the Ombudsman’s ongoing investigation” into the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the President and members of his family.
Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Melchor Carandang found himself the target of the President’s ire after he confirmed to reporters that his office had received the bank transaction records of Mr. Duterte and the First Family from the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
The records form part of the investigation into the First Family’s alleged hidden wealth, based on a complaint filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
Time for pushback
Asked if it was time for institutions and the public to push back, Diokno said: “Yes.”
A pushback against the President’s threats was also the call of antiadministration groups like #TindigPilipinas and #EveryWoman as they expressed support for Carandang, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and the entire antigraft agency.
“We call on our people to support the growing number of institutions and public officials who are beginning to regain their voice. Let us fight to take back a government that is being molded to serve the interests of one man and his family. It is time to push back and reclaim what is ours as a people,” #TindigPilipinas said in a statement.
“Mr. President, the Constitution and our institutions do not exist to serve you or your whims. They are the institutions of the people of the Philippines. They are ours,” the group said.
Support of women’s group
#Everywoman said Morales was among the “increasing number of women who handled power with courage and integrity and therefore ran afoul of the President.”
“We citizens can do no less than to support the Ombudsman and the institution [that] serves with her,” the women’s group said.
#Everywoman praised Morales, Carandang and the staff of the Office of the Ombudsman “in their courage against the toxic machismo of the bully in chief, President Duterte.”
#TindigPilipinas said it was “firmly” behind the Ombudsman in its investigation of Mr. Duterte’s bank accounts “which appear to total billions of pesos.”
“For investigating him, President Duterte makes an infantile threat to investigate the Ombudsman. Yet again, he reverts to his childish game of tit-for-tat retaliation. And yet again, he fails to understand that nowhere in our Constitution is the President given the power to investigate the Ombudsman. There are constitutional limits to petty and boorish behavior,” the group said.
“The adults in this confrontation have doubled down on their duty when threatened by an overgrown child. We laud the Ombudsman for standing fearlessly against the threats and the disinformation,” it said.
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.