Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte suspends anti-graft official after bank records ‘leak’

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday punished an anti-graft prosecutor suspected of leaking his bank records after an opposition politician had accused Duterte of corruption.

When he was still a presidential candidate Duterte was accused of unlawfully failing to disclose 211 million pesos (US$4.1 million) in secret bank accounts. The 2016 complaint was lodged with the Ombudsman, an anti-corruption prosecutor.

Duterte has denied the allegation. On Monday his spokesman Harry Roque said the president’s chief aide had suspended the deputy ombudsman, Melchor Arthur Carandang, for three months.

The Ombudsman’s office had no comment.

Carandang told a local television station last year that the Ombudsman had since 2016 been quietly investigating Duterte and his family’s bank transactions.

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Clearly this is another Duterte tactic that’s meant to bully democratic institutions into submission

Senator Antonio Trillanes

The probe followed a complaint filed by Senator Antonio Trillanes, a Duterte critic.

Trillanes had alleged Duterte embezzled government funds and engaged in other illegal activities during his lengthy stint as mayor of the southern city of Davao before becoming president.

In the only comment it has made on the case, the central bank’s Anti-Money Laundering Council said following Carandang’s television comments that it had received a request from the Ombudsman “regarding the alleged bank accounts of President Rodrigo Duterte”.

It said the request concerned information provided to the Ombudsman by Trillanes and that it had yet to evaluate it.

All government officials including the president must by law disclose their assets and liabilities each year as a safeguard against corruption.

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Roque said Carandang was being suspended after two individuals filed an administrative case against him for alleged violations of the country’s corruption law.

The complaint alleged Carandang had committed “grave misconduct and grave dishonesty” for the “misuse of confidential information and disclosing false information”, Roque added.

Trillanes said on Monday Duterte was violating the constitution because the special prosecutor is an independent official who cannot be sanctioned by the chief executive.

“Clearly 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.

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