Ombudsman tells Duterte: Anong pakialam niya?

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales

MANILA — “Anong pakialam niya?” (What’s his business?!)
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had that to say on Friday when asked for her reaction to President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for the Ombudsman and the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) to seek his clearance first before investigating errant police and military officers.

“I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated. Human Rights Commission, you address your request through me because the Armed Forces is under me and the police is under me,” Duterte said in a press conference after his State of the Nation Address.

“And for the Ombudsman to refrain from citing them in contempt for what? Because I have the authority to give the final say whether they will attend (an investigation) or not,” he added.

Ombudsman Morales bristled at the President’s call for the Ombudsman to seek clearance from him first.

“Anong pakialam niya?” Morales, batting her eyelashes, told reporters in an ambush interview at the sidelines of a symposium on the best practices on anti-corruption held at Novotel Manila in Cubao.

She said her office has powers to subpoena officials under investigation for malfeasance and corruption.

“Under the law, we have subpoena powers. We have orders for particular officials, including police and soldiers to show up or to file pleadings. If they don’t file pleadings, that’s their lookout,” Morales said.

She said there is no law that requires the President’s clearance that the police and military official be allowed for investigation by the Ombudsman and the CHR.

“There is no law that requires a soldier or a policeman or any respondent for that matter to seek clearance from anybody,” Morales said.

Morales said she was not even invited in Monday’s State of the Nation Address, although she does not make any fuss of it. She was also not invited in President Duterte’s first Sona last year.

“I was not invited. It’s okay, I don’t care. I was not invited last year… I don’t expect to be invited this year,” Morales said.

“If there’s a party or event for which you are not invited and you know your friends are invited, I’m not sensitive about it,” she added.

In her speech during the symposium, Morales said her office will not be cowed by criticisms hurled against the anti-graft office.

“The Ombudsman can never be silenced. They can attempt to repress the messenger but it will never suppress the message,” Morales said.

Morales made the statement a few days after the President bullied his critics in his State of the Nation Address.

Morales closed her speech with a call to the public to expose any form of corruption, and not allow the “monstrous effect of corruption to blind us that all hope is gone because there is no truth to that.”

“We’ll be inspired never to take corruption sitting down. You may be one, you may be a few, but that’s perfectly alright,” Morales said.

Duterte and Morales once crossed swords when the Ombudsman, in an NHK interview, said it is “unacceptable” for Duterte to “goad people to kill.”

The President retaliated by telling Morales not to “play God” and just “shut up,” challenging Morales to cite a law which states that threatening to kill criminals is illegal.

Morales later said she did not say the President violated a law, and that she is “amused” over “much ado” about something she did not say.

In the ambush interview, Morales denied she was taking a swipe against the President when asked who the groups were trying to repress the Ombudsman.

“Maraming nagsasabi na mali ako, ganyan-ganyan (Many are saying I made a mistake, and so, and so). So I come up with a message. Yung may attempt to repress the messenger, but you cannot suppress the message. That’s self-explanatory,” Morales said.

Asked who is she taking a swipe at, she said: “Kung sino matamaan, bato bato sa langit (Whoever gets hit).”
 
Morales said she will not bow down to criticisms about her partiality. Her office has faced criticisms that it is sparing allies of former president Benigno Aquino III, who appointed her to the office.

“Maraming bumabatikos sa akin, akala mo kung sino sila. Kayo na ang mag-Ombudsman. It’s a thankless job… I am not listening to anybody else. I go by the evidence,” she said.
(Many are criticizing me, who they think they are? Be my guest to be the Ombudsman)

“I am not a coward!” Morales added.