Palace sacks, penalizes Overall Deputy Ombudsman Carandang

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 1) — Malacañang has ordered the dismissal of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang over his supposed partiality in investigating President Rodrigo Duterte's alleged ill-gotten wealth.

In a decision dated July 30 and obtained by CNN Philippines on Wednesday, the Palace found Carandang liable for graft and corruption and betrayal of public trust in the conduct of the probe on the presidential family's wealth.

Aside from dismissal from public service, Carandang was also slapped with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, barred from taking civil service examinations, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

CNN Philippines is trying to reach Carandang for comment.

The decision stems from the October 2017 complaint filed by Manuelito Luna, legal counsel of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, and Eligio Mallari, president of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc., which alleged that Carandang was partial in his probe. The complaint against Carandang's co-accused, Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao Rodolfo Elman and members of the fact-finding investigation team, was dismissed for lack of substantial evidence.

The Palace's ruling, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, said Carandang "was clearly only interested to broadcast an information adverse to the President."

Malacañang also accused Carandang of violating the RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees when he supposedly disclosed or misused confidential information "in order to give undue advantage" to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who filed the plunder complaint against Duterte.

The Palace said this also violates Section 3(e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which penalizes public officials "giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence."

"These transgressions of respondent Carandang constitute graft and corruption as well as betrayal of public trust, which gravely affect his fitness to remain in office," the decision read.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace ruled that Carandang breached his duty to protect confidential information when he talked about the ongoing probe in public.

"This decision was reached after giving Mr. Carandang the appropriate opportunity to respond to the charges made against him," Roque said.

Carandang in September 2017 confirmed that he was leading the probe on the Presidential family's wealth in response to the plunder case filed by Trillanes during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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

Carandang also said he obtained Duterte's bank records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), amounting to over ₱1 billion, supposedly supporting Trillanes' allegation of the President's ill-gotten wealth. But the council denied providing such documents. It said in September 2017 it was still evaluating Carandang's request.

The Ombudsman later announced the probe had ended because of AMLC's refusal to cooperate. The Ombudsman said the probe was "closed and terminated" on November 29, 2017, after the AMLC "declined to provide a report or confirmation on the requested vital data."

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

Morales retired last July 25, and the law states Carandang should take over the post in an acting capacity. But Duterte the next day announced the appointment of then Supreme Court Justice Samuel Martires as Ombudsman.

When asked about Palace's order, Martires only said "I have yet to assume office and read the decision."