Palace to Trillanes: Go ahead, file impeachment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 30) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday challenged Senator Antonio Trillanes to push through with his threat of filing an impeachment complaint against the President.

"Go ahead, file the impeachment. Do it as soon as possible and we will see you in the house," Roque said in a press briefing in Marawi.

Trillanes said the suspension order released by the Palace against Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang is an impeachable offense as it violates the Constitution, specifically the provisions emphasizing the independence of the Ombudsman.

"This is another Duterte tactic that's meant to bully democratic institutions into submission so he could go on with his dictatorial and corrupt ways," Trillanes said in a statement, Monday.

TindigPilipinas, a group primarily composed of current and former government officials connected with the Liberal party and the Aquino administration, said the Palace's move was a "coercive display of naked power to cover the truth."

"The independence of the Office of the Ombudsman has long been established by the Constitution and our Supreme Court," the group said in a statement, citing a 2014 Supreme Court decision.

"Subjecting the Deputy Ombudsman to discipline and removal by the President, whose own alter egos and officials in the Executive Department are subject to the Ombudsman's disciplinary authority, cannot but seriously place at risk the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman itself," the Supreme Court decision states.

The Office of the Executive Secretary charged Carandang with grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for misuse of confidential information and disclosing false information.

Carandang previously said he received a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) saying the President's bank account has amounted to over P1 billion.

The Deputy Ombudsman was also slapped with a 90-day suspension, and was given 10 days to respond.

READ: Deputy Ombudsman suspended, facing 'false information' charges

Roque said the suspension order is immediately executory.

"We will implement the order. If he wants to go court because I understand he's saying it's unconstitutional, let him but we will not go to court because our reading is the Office of the President has the power to discipline him," Roque said.

Solicitor General Jose Calida echoed the same in a statement on Tuesday, adding the President has the inherent power to discipline a deputy ombudsman being the appointing authority.

"While silent as to the disciplinary authority over a deputy ombudsman, the subsequent enactment of the Ombudsman Act filled this gap and expressly granted the authority to the President," Calida said. "The Supreme Court has held that the power to discipline is lodged in the same authority in whom the power to appoint is vested," the solicitor general added.

Calida said Carandang is free to seek redress before a court, but the Solicitor General said his office is also ready to defend the Palace.

CNN Philippines correspondent Ina Andolong contributed to this report.