Trillanes eyes charges vs AMLC chief for 'cover up' of Duterte bank documents

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is eyeing charges against the head of the Anti-Money Laundering Council for a supposed “cover-up” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bank documents.

Trillanes bared his plan after Malacañang suspended Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang – who leads the probe into Duterte’s alleged ill-gotten wealth – for supposed illegal disclosure of bank details of the President and members of his family. (READ: AMLC's bank records on Duterte show P1-B flow of money – Ombudsman)

AMLC, headed by Executive Director Mel Georgie Racela, earlier countered Carandang and denied giving the Office of the Ombudsman a report on the investigation.

Plano ko rin pakasuhan si AMLC Exec. Direstor Racela sa pagcover-up at pagdeny na ang mga flagged bank transaction documents ay hindi galing sa AMLC samantalang ito ay naka saad sa minutes ng AMLC meeting noong May 2016 na ito ay parte ng MOA [memorandum of agreement] with the Ombudsman to provide such documents for intelligence purposes,” Trillanes said in a statement.

(I also plan to have a case filed against AMLC Executive Director Racela for covering up and for denying that the flagged bank transaction documents came from the AMLC. This is indicated in the AMLC meeting in May 2016 where it said this is part of a MOA with the Ombudsman to provide such documents for intelligence purposes.)

Trillanes added that Racela was only appointed in 2017, way after the May 2016 AMLC meeting. Racela was designated officer-in-charge of the AMLC in January 2017 and then as its official chief in September.

“Matatandaan na naitalaga lang ni Duterte si Racela sa kanyang position noong January 2017 lang, kaya hindi sakop ng kanyang termino ang mga panahong 'yun,” he said.

(If you recall, Duterte appointed Racela only in January 2017, so it was not yet covered by his term.)

Trillanes also threw his support for Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales against “an illegal and unconstitutional order by Duterte and his minions.”

Morales had said she would not enforce Malacañang's 90-day preventive suspension order against Carandang.

“Maling-mali si Duterte dito kahit saan mo tingnan. Bukod pa sa independent ang Ombudsman and her deputies, ayon sa ating Constitution, pinasuspende niya ang taong nagiimbestiga sa mga nakaw na yaman niya. Maliwanag na obstruction of justice din 'yan,” Trillanes said.

(Duterte is really wrong however you look at it. Aside from the fact that the Ombudsman and her deputies are independent according to our Constitution, Duterte wants to suspend the person investigating his stolen wealth. It is clearly an obstruction of justice.)

In a statement issued on Wednesday, January 31, Morales cited the 2014 Supreme Court (SC) ruling declaring as unconstitutional Section 8 (2) of Republic Act (RA) No. 6770 or the Ombudsman law, which previously gave the President the power to discipline the Deputy Ombudsmen. (READ: EXPLAINER: Can SC reverse ruling on deputy ombudsman?)

"The Ombudsman cannot, therefore, seriously place at risk the independence of the very Office which she has pledged to protect on the strength of the constitutional guarantees which the High Court has upheld," Morales said.

The 2014 ruling promulgated January 28 that year became final and executory on May 7 the same year, according to SC records. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.