Deputy Ombudsman suspended, facing 'false information' charges

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 29) - Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang has been suspended for supposedly spreading false information on President Rodrigo Duterte's bank accounts, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday.

Roque said the Office of Executive Secretary formally charged Carandang with grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for misuse of confidential information and disclosing false information.

He was also slapped with a 90-day suspension. He was given 10 days to respond on why he should not be suspended.

The action of the Office of the Executive Secretary was pursuant to the complaint of Manuel Luna and Eligio Mallari filed in October 2017.

Carandang previously said he received a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) stating that President Rodrigo Duterte's bank account has amounted to over P1 billion. He also said it contains more or less the same details as the report submitted by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

The AMLC denied it provided any report to the Office of the Ombudsman on Duterte's bank transactions. While it did receive Carandang's request to look into Duterte's bank records, it has yet to evaluate the request.

Senator: Suspension an impeachable offense

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said Duterte, who is resorting to bullying, could be impeached for ordering the suspension of Carandang.

"This is an impeachable offense as it violated Section 5 of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, which clearly states the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman and its Deputies," he said in a statement.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the Office of the Ombudsman is an independent body.

Roque, however, insisted the Office of the President has jurisdiction over deputy ombudsmen, citing a 2012 Supreme Court decision which was later on reversed by the high court.

"I'd like to complete the citation of the case: Emilio A. Gonzales III versus Office of the President G. R. No. 196231, 4 September 2012 recognizes that Deputy Ombudsmen are subject to removal by the President," he said.

But in January 2014, the Supreme Court, reversing the 2012 ruling, denied the President disciplinary jurisdiction over a deputy ombudsman as it was unconstitutional.

In February 2017, Trillanes said Duterte and his family had ₱2 billion in undeclared wealth in their bank accounts from 2006 to 2015.

In September 2017, the Ombudsman announced it opened the probe on Duterte's bank records, in response to the plunder case filed by Trillanes. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales tasked Carandang to look into allegations on Duterte's wealth, after she inhibited due to her connection to the Duterte family.

Carpio is the aunt of Manases Carpio, husband of presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.