Wealth probe against PDU30 dropped on November 2017 but Ombudsman kept this from public

Tuesday February 13, 2018 ()

Investigators from the Office of the Ombudsman had resolved to terminate the complaint filed by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV against President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly amassing ill-gotten wealth and for violating anti-money laundering laws as early as November 2017, the government's top lawyer said Tuesday.

Solicitor General Jose Calida said in response to his query on the status of the case, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Carandang said in a Feb. 12 letter that the Trillanes complaint was deemed closed on Nov. 29, 2017.

Duterte and Morales

"My first reaction is why did she keep this to herself?" Calida said, referring to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales. "Perhaps you can ask her that question."

"This case involves the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Why are you withholding this information? When this case was filed, a press conference was even conducted. Three months after the termination of the case, the public has still no knowledge that the evidence supporting the allegations of Trillanes is without merit," he said.

In a press conference, Calida furnished the media copies of a letter signed by Carandang dated Feb. 12, responding to his inquiry on the status of the Trillanes case against the President.

Carandang's letter said that the senator's complaint was "already closed and terminated."

"Based on the record, the recommendation to terminate the investigation was approved by deputy ombudsman Cyril E. Ramos on 29 November 2017," the Ombudsman's letter said.

Calida said the Senate should stop the hearing on Duterte's alleged unexplained wealth because these allegations were based on the complaint Trillanes file before the Ombudsman.

"Knowing that this frivolous case was terminated by the Ombudsman, Senator Trillanes now seeks to have another Senate hearing on the matter to convince the public about his garbage junked by the Ombudsman," Calida said. "The Senate should stop this nonsense investigation."

Sought for comment, Trillanes said: "If his evidence against President Rodrigo Duterte was garbage, then why are they panicking?"

"And why can't Mr. Duterte just accept my challenge for him to sign a waiver [of bank secrecy rights] and if I am wrong in my allegations then I would resign immediately as senator and voluntarily walk into any jail of his choice?" he added.

Reacting to reports that he has been declared persona non grata by local officials of Davao City for saying it had the highest incidence of murder and the second highest in rape, Trillanes said: "The truth definitely hurts."

"The people of Davao either know it but tolerate it out of fear or they've actually believed the lie that was fed to them that Davao City is the safest city in the world," the senator added.

Earlier, Trillanes filed a resolution calling for a Senate probe on alleged possible violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act by the President himself and daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The resolution had been referred to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, and the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies headed by Senator Francis Escudero.

The resolution has been referred to the Senate committee on rules after Gordon suggested the complaint should be investigated either by the House in an impeachment proceeding or the Office of the Ombudsman, but not the Senate.

In Davao City, the city council also declared Filipino-American businesswoman Loida Lewis persona non grata for her tirades against President Duterte.

In an open letter to Duterte, Lewis denied his claim that she had a hand in the decision of the International Criminal Court to begin examining allegations of crimes against humanity against him.

"There is absolutely no truth to the story given to you by ‘another country' that I was in any way involved in the International Criminal Court's decision to investigate the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines."

Lewis was reacting to Duterte's claim he knew in advance of the ICC prosecutor's intention to open a preliminary examination into the charges through a recorded phone conversion supposedly handed him "by another country."

"I was already listening to the tapes of their conversation. It was provided by me by another country but the conversation was somewhere Philippines and New York. Loida was one of them. And there was this, ‘See you in the headquarters when the case is filed,'" Duterte said in a speech over the weekend.

But Lewis, in the letter she posted on social media, said "any supposed transcript of a recent phone conversation is bogus."

She also called Duterte's "headquarters" reference "laughable," pointing out that the US Pinoys for Good Governance group she belongs does not even have a headquarters.

"We use the internet for communications and teleconference," she said.

The only time she said she may have mentioned a headquarters in connection with their activities "was in 2013, when the USPGG organized a rally in front of the UN Headquarters to show their support for the Philippine delegation who filed the case against China

The Palace congratulated the Davao city council for its move.

In a press briefing, presidential spokesman Harry Roque smiled when asked about the Davao City resolution.

"I do not know how you want me to react because I speak for the President, and I cannot say anything other than congratulations to Davao City," he said.


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