Ombudsman probe into Duterte wealth terminated in November

MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday confirmed that the investigation into the alleged ill-gotten wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte was closed last November.

In a statement, the Ombudsman confirmed that the fact-finding or field investigation on the complaints filed against the President was closed and terminated on Nov. 29, 2017 after the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) declined to provide a report or confirmation on the requested vital data.

By rule, the Ombudsman said, “[a] closed and terminated field investigation is without prejudice to the refiling of a complaint with new or additional evidence.”

It has come to the knowledge of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales from the press briefing of Solicitor General Jose Calida on Wednesday that he has been informed of the closure and termination of the investigation, through a Feb. 12, 2018 letter-response to his letter-inquiry dated Feb. 8, 2018, addressed to Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang.

“The Solicitor General raised certain questions, which may be answered by his own declarations. He asked why the Ombudsman kept quiet about the matter,” the Ombudsman noted.

“Oddly, he himself pointed out that the Ombudsman had inhibited herself from the investigation. The Solicitor General might want to consider whether it is proper for an official who inhibited from an investigation to remain involved therein. The Ombudsman posits that it is not,” Morales said.

“In keeping therewith, the investigation was given free rein and proceeded without her intervention,” she added.

The Ombudsman learned about such closure and termination only on Jan. 29, 2018, upon an inquiry on the status thereof, after learning that Carandang was formally charged and placed under preventive suspension by the Office of the President.

“The Ombudsman trusts that in the conduct of fact-finding investigations, efforts are exhausted to gather evidence and to comply with pertinent internal rules. Fact-finding investigations, under the rules, are generally confidential in nature,” Morales said.

“The Office is not obliged to inform the subject of the fact-finding investigation about its outcome. The confidentiality of proceedings was, in fact, recognized by the Solicitor General when he cited the exception that the Ombudsman has the power to publicize certain matters (e.g., whether or not to act upon an inquiry “out of curiosity” or media requests for case status out of journalistic duty),” she added.

The Ombudsman, Morales said, could not have considered exercising such discretionary power relative to the complaints against the President due to her inhibition.

The Ombudsman said the Solicitor General has effectively recognized Carandang as the Overall Deputy Ombudsman through his official letter-inquiry dated Feb. 8, 2018, addressed to Carandang who, at such date, had been “supposedly” under preventive suspension.

“The Office sees this as recognition of the unconstitutionality of the preventive suspension order,” the Ombudsman said.