Duterte: Ombudsman meting ‘selective justice’


By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte on Tuesday slammed anew the Office of the Ombudsman for supposedly engaging in “selective justice” as he criticized the way the constitutional body handled the corruption cases filed against several lawmakers.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales is seen in a huddle with senators before the start of a budget hearing on her agency. Ms. Morales also disclosed on Aug. 29 that ‘we already started our fact-finding investigation’ on the Kian delos Santos case. — SENATE PRIB

In his speech before newly appointed government officials in Malacañang, Mr. Duterte said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales “has mastered the art of selective justice” by slowly acting on complaints against the “friendly” but quickly deciding against “perceived hostilities.”

“The Office of the Ombudsman rightly stresses the importance of due process of law. Yet it cannot act on complaints with the cold neutrality of an impartial tribunal,” Mr. Duterte said, adding that the body failed to perform its constitutional mandate.

“Harsh on some, soft on others even when they all suffer from similar or analogous circumstances….The enemy of the Ombudsman’s friend is the Ombudsman’s enemy too, so it seems. That is how I see it from where I stand,” he added.

To recall, Mr. Duterte earlier blasted Ms. Morales for speaking against his way of fighting narcotics and crime. He also told the Ombudsman to seek clearance from him first before investigating erring cops carrying out his drug war.

But Ms. Morales dismissed Mr. Duterte’s remarks and said the chief executive can’t meddle in the Ombudsman’s affairs. The President later said his statements against Ms. Morales were just a joke.

In his speech yesterday, Mr. Duterte questioned how Ms. Morales handled the corruption charges against senators allegedly involved in the misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

He then cited the cases of detained former senators Ramon “Bong” B. Revilla, Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada as examples of Ms. Morales’s supposed impartiality, noting that some lawmakers who were linked to the same corruption scandal were allowed to post bail while others were not.

He also lamented the Ombudsman’s latest decision to indict Senator Gregorio “Gringo” B. Honasan II for alleged misuse of congressional funds. To recall, the President met with Mr. Honasan in Malacañang last Aug. 16.

“You know, it’s sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander. If you allow a certain person to post bail, there is absolutely no ground — legal or otherwise — na bakit ‘yung iba, hindi mo rin gawin (how come with the others, you’re not doing the same)?” he said.

Bakit ang Ombudsman matagal na siya diyan, natapos na lang itong si Aquino, why can’t they just wind up the cases against the senators?” he said, referring to former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III. (How come the Ombudsman has been there for a long time, Aquino’s term is over, why can’t they just wind up the cases against the senators?)

In 2015, the Supreme Court (SC) granted former senator Juan F. Ponce-Enrile’s petition for bail after he was detained in connection with the multibillion-peso “pork barrel” scam of 2013.

While plunder is a non-bailable offense, the 91-year-old former senator argued in his bail petition that the prosecution has insufficient evidence, adding he is not a flight risk because of his advanced age and physical weakness.

According to Mr. Duterte, Ms. Morales’s office is also corrupt.

He then advised her to let the remaining months of her incumbency to be “truly reflective of your mandate to do justice to everyone without favor or bias.”

“I can only wish that the Ombudsman would go beyond the friendship bonds and adapt the afore-quoted principle as a governing rule in the performance of its constitutional mandate,” he said.

A retired member of the High Court, Ms. Morales was appointed to a seven-year term on July 25, 2011 following the exit of then-Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez on the heels of an impeachment campaign against her by the Aquino camp. She is set to end her term at the anti-graft body in July 2018.

She was appointed by Mr. Aquino, whom she recently indicted for his “liability” in the 2015 manhunt in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that took the lives of 44 police commandos. But Mr. Duterte has belittled this move against his predecessor.

Still on the topic of corruption, Mr. Duterte yesterday also clarified that he was not referring to SC Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno when he hit an unnamed government official’s luxurious travels.

“Si Justice Sereno made insinuations that siya ‘yung itinuturo ko (that I was alluding to her). Actually, none of the above… generic ‘yun.”

“Ako naman, I rely on documents that are given to us here in the Palace. I do not put a premium of truth in it actually,” he added.

In his speech on Aug. 22, Mr. Duterte said he is looking into the expensive trips allegedly made by an official who is not under the Executive branch as he vowed anew to fight corruption.

Responding to Mr. Duterte’s remarks, Ms. Sereno, in a town hall in Cebu City, said: “That’s his revelation. I don’t know who he’s talking of, definitely I don’t feel alluded to.”

“My travels, my security, and vehicle requirements are all regular and above the board public documents — the record will speak for itself and I have not objected to the public release of the same,” she added.

Early this month, the SC granted the request of two groups for documents that will support their impeachment case against the Chief Justice.

The impeachment case, however, will have to be endorsed by a lawmaker to be formally lodged in the House committee on justice for hearing.

Malacañang earlier said Mr. Duterte, with whom Ms. Sereno had been at loggerheads since June last year, is hands off the case.

The complainants’ memorandum flagged several administrative orders by Ms. Sereno, including the appointment of lawyer Brenda Jay Mendoza as chief of the Philippine Mediation Center of the Philippine Judicial Academy, granting foreign travels and allowance to staff of the Office of the Chief Justice, and “long delay” in certain appointments.

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