Calida threatens Ombudsman with lawsuit, impeachment

MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida said on Wednesday, October 4, that Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang is criminally liable for violating the anti-money laundering act.

Calida said that even though she has inhibited from the investigation, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales is equally liable for her deputy’s actions and said it’s now a ground for impeachment.

Morales can be removed from office only by impeachment.

“That’s not a threat, that’s a fact," Calida said.

Calida as solicitor general represents government in cases. He clarified, however, that at this stage no government agency, even the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), has concrete plans yet to file cases. (READ: Did Carandang commit breaches, and can the President remove him?)

But this early, Calida said, Carandang is liable for violating Section 14(c) of Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

The provision penalizes “any person who, with malice, or in bad faith, reports or files a completely unwarranted or false information relative to money laundering transaction against any person.” It is equivalent to jailtime of 6 months to 4 years.

“Carandang, you will be held liable under the law,” Calida declared.

Who has power over Carandang?

Calida admitted that Carandang, by virtue of his salary grade, falls under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman and eventually the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, if the case prospers.

Calida insisted that the Office of the President also has the authority to discipline and even remove Carandang. Cases were already filed before the Office of the Executive Secretary.

But the provision – Section 8(2) of Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman law – vesting that power with the President was already declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) in January 2014.

Acknowledging this, Calida said: “The SC ruled with a vote of 8-7, meaning to say there’s only one vote difference. I’m confident that if someone challenges it we will be able to reverse it.”

Carandang told media that he’s in possession of bank transaction records of President Rodrigo Duterte and his family. Carandang said the documents “more or less” look like the documents presented by opposition Senator Trillanes IV, and that the money flow amounted to about P1 billion.

Carandang earlier insisted he maintained confidentiality in the investigation that he heads.

Destabilization 

Calida said Carandang did this in cahoots with Trillanes and “other forces.” (READ: Duterte dares: Shoot me if I have more than P40M)

Carandang was being helped by two lawyers, one of them a former official of the Office of the Ombudsman, the other an official during the Arroyo administration,” Calida said, refusing to identify them.

Calida said these two lawyers helped a losing presidential candidate in the last elections. (READ: Ombudsman hits back: We won't be intimidated)

“Carandang willingly allowed himself to be a tool for political harassment. This is a clear case of grave misconduct,” Calida said. 

He added: "They are destabilizing the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, and we will not let that happen."

Calida said he is willing to help any private person who plans to file a case against Carandang, acting in his capacity as “tribune of the people.” Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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