Impeach Ombudsman for probe on Duterte's wealth, Aquino 'acquittal,' group says

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President Rodrigo Duterte, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, and former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 10) — Tough on President Rodrigo Duterte, soft on former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

That is how a group of complainants assess Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales' actions and insist she must be impeached for practicing selective justice.

Lawyer Manny Luna released a copy of the 64-page complaint, which is expected to be lodged against Morales this week at the House of Representatives.

The complainants – former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica, and Evelyn Kilayko and Teresita Baltazar of nongovernment organization Tanggulang Demokrasya Inc.

They are accusing Morales of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust - grounds for officials to be impeached under the 1987 Constitution.

Investigating Duterte

Morales betrayed public trust for "sanctioning the legally infirm fact-finding investigation of the President," the complaint read.

The Office of the Ombudsman "should have backed off" for lack of legal basis, it added.

Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang on September 28 said the Ombudsman's office is investigating Duterte's wealth in response to a plunder complaint filed by Senator Antonio Trillanes during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Morales has delegated cases involving the Duterte family to Carandang after inhibiting herself, as she is the aunt of Manases Carpio, the husband of presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

Trillanes said then Davao City Mayor Duterte amassed ₱211 million in ill-gotten wealth, a claim Duterte has repeatedly denied.

Carandang said the Office of the Ombudsman has Duterte's bank records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), but the council denied providing such documents.

"The ongoing fact-finding investigation against the President is not sanctioned by Sec. 22, Par. 1 of RA 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989," the complaint said.

The law states, "The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the power to investigate any serious misconduct in office allegedly committed by officials removable by impeachment, for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted."

Duterte said he would not allow himself to be investigated by Morales, calling her corrupt.  He also said the evidence against him were illegally obtained.

Duterte: I won’t submit to Ombudsman’s authority in wealth probe

Acquitting Aquino, allies

Duterte's predecessor, on the other hand, enjoyed the Ombudsman's favor, the complainants alleged. Aquino appointed Morales as Ombudsman in July 2011.

"The biggest travesty is Morales' letting Aquino off the hook. How is (former Budget Secretary Florencio) Abad the only government official liable, when his official actions were authorized by Aquino?" the complainants said. 

On March 7, the Ombudsman cleared Aquino of liabilities over the P72-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) controversy, while it found probable cause to charge Abad for violating Article 239 the Revised Penal Code or the usurpation of legislative powers.

The Ombudsman acquitted Aquino due to lack of jurisdiction, saying it has no authority over impeachable officials.

The DAP is a program proposed by Abad and approved by Aquino in 2011, aimed at boosting economic growth through fast-tracking the release of funds for priority projects of the government. The Supreme Court has since declared it unconstitutional for encroaching on the budget authority of Congress.

The complaint echoed Duterte's accusation of selective justice against the Ombudsman for not acting on complaints against Aquino allies from the Liberal Party, while swiftly ruling against Aquino critics.

Among the examples it cited were plunder charges faced by Sen. Franklin Drilon and former Vice President Jejomar Binay's graft case.

"In the Iloilo Convention Center case where the issue was overpricing, Carpio-Morales lost no time in exonerating Sen. Franklin Drilon, a stalwart of the Liberal Party; whereas in the Makati Parking Building II case, she was quick to condemn then Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Sr., notwithstanding the fact that the latter was an impeachable officer," the complaint read.

Related: Binays ordered charged over ₱1.3-billion Makati Science High School building

"Notably, in both cases, the contractor was Hilmarc's Construction Company and the common issue was overpricing of the contract," it added.

Morales has denied allegations of selective justice. She said she does not favor anyone in prioritizing the resolution of cases.

"We give priority to high profile cases, high government officials, officials who hold supervisory positions, or cases that involve a huge amount of money or big property," Morales said.

Morales added those in the political majority when she assumed her post are now in the opposition.  And vice versa, so the argument does not hold.

Read: Ombudsman denies Duterte's claims of 'selective justice'

The complaint said numerous high profile cases at anti-graft court Sandiganbayan had been dismissed due to inordinate delays attributable to the Ombudsman.

It violates the accused's right to speedy disposition of cases according to Article 3, Section 16 of the Constitution, the complaint said.

"Under her watch, complaints have been gathering dust at the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices, Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon and Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao," the complaint read.

Embattled Ombudsman

Aside from Belgica's complaint, two other impeachment raps are being prepared against the Ombudsman.

Some families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who died in the bloody Mamasapano encounter in 2015 also want Morales ousted. They said Morales downgraded the case when she cleared Aquino of homicide charges.

Read more: Some families of SAF44 to file impeachment raps vs. Ombudsman

Ferdinand Topacio, counsel of the 11 families, and Manny Luna, said some congressmen already expressed intent to endorse their impeachment complaints especially after Duterte himself called for Morales' impeachment.

"We are garnering more and more support in the lower house… We have 2 or 3 already confirmed," Topacio said last Friday.

A complaint needs the endorsement of at least one congressman before it can be heard by the House of Representatives. A vote of at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives, or 98 out of the 292 incumbent congressmen, can start an impeachment trial at the Senate.

Duterte on October 4 said he will also file an impeachment complaint against Morales for her selective justice.

But if another impeachment rap is filed first, the President would have to wait another year to file another case.

Under Section 5 of Article XI of the Constitution, "no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year."

Duterte has been at odds with Morales after her comments on the government's bloody war on drugs. Duterte called her out in July for saying telling Japan's NHK World it is "not acceptable" for the President to threaten criminals.

Read more: Duterte to Ombudsman: Find law vs threatening criminals

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas and Chad De Guzman contributed to this report.