Duterte: Chief justice, anti-graft chief face impeachment
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Wednesday that the Supreme Court chief justice and the head of a key anti-graft agency face impeachment complaints, in an emerging faceoff with the officials.
When asked if the legal action that he backs against the two top prosecution and judiciary officials is an assault on the government’s checks and balances, Duterte told a news conference, “I did not start this ruckus.”
He said Ombudsman Conchita Morales’ anti-graft agency allowed the use of illegally obtained or fabricated information supposedly from the Anti-Money Laundering Council to begin an investigation into allegations Duterte kept undeclared wealth in past bank accounts.
“We will file an impeachment case against her and I would tend to believe that she was part of the conspiracy,” Duterte said. He did not offer any evidence against Morales in the televised news conference.
The president’s most vocal critic, opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, first alleged that Duterte had unexplained wealth during the presidential campaign last year.
In February, he raised the issue again, saying Duterte had not agreed to sign a bank secrecy waiver or revealed details of more than 2 billion pesos ($39 million) he allegedly kept in joint bank accounts with family members before he assumed the presidency.
The Ombudsman office said last week that an investigation of the allegations against the president is underway, adding it would not be intimidated by Duterte’s threat to investigate alleged corruption in the anti-graft body. “If the president has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear,” it said.
Duterte has denied any wrongdoing and said it was Morales who may have violated the law if her agency was using fabricated or illegally obtained bank records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, a financial intelligence agency, which has denied issuing confidential bank records to the Ombudsman.
Without elaborating or offering any evidence, Duterte said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno did not declare some of her earnings as a lawyer in one past case. He also accused her of using expensive vehicles and staying in suites on foreign trips.
Duterte has dared Morales and Sereno to tender their resignations before Congress, where he said they should offer their financial assets for scrutiny. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are dominated by Duterte’s allies.
Morales and Sereno have denied any wrongdoing and rejected Duterte’s challenge.
“I will not be baited into abandoning my constitutional duties,” Morales said Tuesday, adding she was prepared to answer any charges. “I expect him to answer the charges against him in the same manner.”
Duterte said the total amount of money in his bank accounts would not exceed 40 million pesos ($784,000), including assets he inherited from his parents. His family once operated a profitable ice plant and was involved in logging, Duterte said, adding that his wife had businesses to supplement his salary as the mayor of southern Davao city.
In a conference with the military and police late Tuesday, Duterte said he told the generals to check with the Anti-Money Laundering Council if they think he was lying about his bank accounts. “If you see billions in my account, kindly, most kindly please oust me tomorrow,” the president said.