Ombudsman: Probe on Duterte wealth closed after AMLC refusal to cooperate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 15) — The Office of the Ombudsman said it closed its investigation on President Rodrigo Duterte's alleged unexplained wealth due to lack of evidence.

In a statement on Thursday, the Ombudsman said the probe was "closed and terminated" on November 29, 2017, "after the Anti-Money Laundering Council declined to provide a report or confirmation on the requested vital data."

Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang previously said they have Duterte's bank records from the AMLC, amounting to over ₱1 billion. But the council denied providing such documents. It said in September 2017 it was still evaluating Carandang's request.

In January 2018, Malacañang said it is suspending Carandang for supposedly spreading false information on Duterte's bank records, but Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales refused to enforce the suspension order as it was unconstitutional.

The Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday said Solicitor General Jose Calida's letter to Carandang, referring to him as Overall Deputy Ombudsman is an admission of the suspension order's unconstitutionality. The letter was written on February 8, as Calida asked the status of Duterte's plunder case. At the time, Carandang was under Malacañang's 90-day suspension, the Ombudsman said.

In May 2016, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV filed a plunder complaint against Duterte, then Davao City mayor and presidential candidate.

Trillanes, one the President's staunchest critics, alleged Duterte amassed at least ₱211 million in ill-gotten wealth. He also accused Duterte of having ghost employees with a budget of P708 million when he was mayor.

In February 2017, Trillanes said Duterte and his family had ₱2 billion in undeclared wealth in their bank accounts from 2006 to 2015.

Duterte has refused to sign a waiver to allow probe of his bank accounts but denied Trillanes' allegations, throwing back accusations that the senator has offshore bank accounts.

Calida first disclosed the termination of the Ombudsman probe on Duterte during a February 13 media briefing.

He said he asked the Ombudsman for an update on Duterte's case, and that he has no clue as to why the Ombudsman did not disclose the development to the public.

The Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday said it was because fact-finding investigations are "generally confidential in nature."

"The Office is not obliged to inform the subject of the fact-finding investigation about its outcome," the statement read.

It also said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales could not have announced the matter since she had inhibited herself from the investigation.