Palace on Duterte’s stance on probes: Just a request
Malacañang insisted on President Rodrigo Duterte’s unprecedented order that all investigations of security troops involved in his antidrug campaign or martial law operations be cleared with him.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said such probes should be cleared with the President because, as commander in chief, Mr. Duterte assumes responsibility for the actions of government troops.
But Abella also softened the demand by saying Mr. Duterte was making the “request” with due respect to the constitutional mandate of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
“The President requests that investigations of members of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines related to the performance of their duties in the government’s antidrug campaign or while Mindanao is under martial law be addressed to him,” Abella said in a statement.
“He assumes command responsibility for the actions of his men as Commander in Chief or Chief Executive,” he added.
Morales, a retired Supreme Court justice, had already rejected the demand Mr. Duterte announced in a press conference after delivering his State of the Nation Address on July 24.
“What business is it of his?” Morales told journalists on Friday, explaining that her constitutional office was empowered to investigate government officials and employees without the approval of the Chief Executive.
“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 and it would be up to the government employee or official if he listens to Mr. Duterte.
The Office of the Ombudsman was created by the 1987 Constitution and, as a constitutional agency, its head can only be removed through impeachment.
Moreover, investigations and trials can take several years, even beyond the six year term of a President. The retirement and other employment benefits of a government employee are not released during the pendency of a criminal case.
Aside from making the demand, Mr. Duterte also threatened to abolish the Office of the Ombudsman and another constitutional office, the Commission on Human Rights.
He said the Ombudsman should refrain from citing them in contempt because he has the final say whether they will attend the probe or not.
In an interview with a Japanese news agency, Morales criticized Mr. Duterte’s public pronouncements.
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