Tuesday, October 23, 2018
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SolGen: Ombudsman junked Duterte wealth complaint

Jose Calida

Solicitor General Jose Calida. (Photo by TOTO LOZANO /Malacañang)

The Office of the Ombudsman has junked Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s unexplained wealth complaint against President Duterte, Solicitor General Jose Calida said on Tuesday.

Calida said in a press briefing that the case had been “closed and terminated” since Nov. 29, 2017, but he learned about it only on Monday through a letter from Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang.


“The recommendation to terminate the investigation was approved by Deputy Ombudsman Cyril E. Ramos on [Nov. 29], 2017,” he said, quoting from the letter.

Calida said he wrote the Ombudsman on Feb. 8 to inquire about the status of its probe into Mr. Duterte’s alleged unexplained wealth.


Why the silence?

“What puzzles me is why Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales kept quiet about this,” Calida said.

“A case of this magnitude, why would they not disclose it to the public? Are they also coddling the complainant, Senator Trillanes?”

There was no official statement from the Ombudsman as of press time on Tuesday about the termination of the case.

Prior to Calida’s announcement, the case had been undergoing a fact-finding investigation, or the stage where investigators gather evidence to support a formal complaint.

Termination of the investigation means there will be no preliminary investigation, the stage where the respondent is informed of the allegations and given the chance to rebut them.

It is during this stage that the Ombudsman rules if there is probable cause to bring the case to court.


Evidence ‘garbage’

Calida said the termination of the “frivolous” case meant that Trillanes’ evidence was “garbage,” and that the Senate probe into the matter should be halted as well or the senators would only waste their time.

“It speaks for itself,” Calida said. “When a case is closed and terminated, it means there was no evidence to support that complaint.”
Trillanes expressed surprise that it was Calida who announced the dismissal of the case.

If the case had been dismissed, he said, it should have been done through a resolution.

“[But] why is [Calida] the one making that statement when it should be the Ombudsman?” Trillanes said in a statement.

He scoffed at Calida’s calling the evidence he brought against Mr. Duterte garbage.

Why are they panicking?

“Assuming that what Calida says is true that my evidence is garbage, why are they panicking?” he said.

Trillanes reiterated his challenge to Mr. Duterte to sign a waiver of his right to bank secrecy, saying that if his accusations against the President were disproved, he would resign from the Senate and “voluntarily go to jail.”

Trillanes urged Mr. Duterte to sign a waiver “for the sake of the people, for the sake of his die-hard supporters and for the sake of the truth.”

He said he would question internally first the decision to assign his new resolution for an investigation of Mr. Duterte’s undeclared wealth primarily to the Senate blue ribbon committee of Sen. Richard Gordon.

Trillanes’ resolution sought an investigation by the banks committee of Sen. Francis Escudero.

He said he did not want Gordon’s committee to handle the resolution.

Case for the House

Gordon told reporters that he would meet informally with the blue ribbon committee members next week.

He said his position was that Trillanes’ resolution could be an impeachment case against Mr. Duterte, in which case the House of Representatives should handle it.

Calida said he would inform Mr. Duterte after the press briefing about the dismissal of the case against him, and told reporters that Morales had committed an “injustice” against the President by keeping him and the public in the dark.

“The Ombudsman is the protector of the people. She has the constitutional duty to publicize matters covered by investigation,” he said.

When asked if the Office of the Solicitor General would file a complaint against Morales, he said, “We will see.”

He conceded, however, that it could not serve as a basis for an impeachment hearing, as Morales’ retirement in July would mean the time was too short for that kind of legal proceeding.

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TAGS: Antonio Trillanes IV, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Cyril E. Ramos, Duterte's hidden wealth, Jose Calida, Melchor Arthur Carandang, Office of the Ombudsman, Rodrigo Duterte
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