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Palace dismisses Deputy Ombudsman Carandang from office

Malacañang has dismissed Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang from service some months after he disclosed the alleged bank transactions of President Rodrigo Duterte and his family.

Excerpts of the July 30 decision, a copy of which was obtained by GMA News Online, said Carandang was dismissed after he was found liable for graft and corruption and betrayal of public trust.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea signed the decision which also slapped Carandang with accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, bar from taking civil service examinations, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

The Office of the President, meanwhile, cleared Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao Rodolfo Elman and members of the Office of the Ombudsman’s field investigation unit on the ground of lack of substantial evidence.

The decision stemmed from the administrative complaints separately filed in October last year by then Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption legal counsel and now Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner Manuelito Luna and lawyer Eligio Mallari as well as Labor Undersecretary Jacinto Paras and former Biliran Representative Glenn Chong. 

The complaints assailed Carandang’s action of releasing to the media information that Duterte and his family could have billions of pesos in the bank.

Luna and Mallari even accused Carandang of trying to destabilize the administration and siding with opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who had asked the Ombudsman to look into the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Dutertes.

In its decision, the Palace said Carandang violated Section 7(c)(1) of Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officers and Employees) on “disclosure and/or misuse of confidential information in order to give undue advantage to Senator Trillanes.”

“He [Carandang] was clearly only interested to broadcast an information adverse to the President,” the decision stated.

The Palace also said Carandang violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019) and the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman.

“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.

GMA News is exhausting efforts to get the statement of Carandang.

In a chance interview with reporters, newly-appointed Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Wednesday said he will decide on whether to enforce the dismissal or not once he reads the decision.

"I have yet to assume office and read the decision," Martires said.

Martires will assume office as Ombudsman on Monday, August 6.

Malacañang on Wednesday said Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang was given the opportunity to refute the administrative complaints against him that became the basis for his dismissal from the service.

“This decision was reached after giving Mr. Carandang the appropriate opportunity to respond to the charges made against him,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

The Palace earlier ordered Carandang suspended for 90 days while the investigation on the complaints was ongoing.

But then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales refused to enforce the suspension order, citing the Supreme Court ruling in 2014 which voided the power of the President to discipline the Deputy Ombudsman.

Carandang, who led the probe, had said the records turned over by Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) show the flow of money through deposits and withdrawals from the President’s sons, former Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Sebastian, and his joint accounts with his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

Carandang said the accounts of Duterte's common-law wife, Honeylet Avanceña, and their daughter, Veronica, were also included in the records obtained by the Ombudsman.

The AMLC, however, denied providing the Ombudsman with documents and information related to its investigation of  Duterte's alleged billion-peso bank accounts.

President Duterte and his daughter, Sara Duterte, had repeatedly denied allegations of ill-gotten wealth.

The Ombudsman’s fact-finding probe on Duterte family’s bank transactions was terminated on November 29 last year, a development which was announced by Solicitor General Jose Calida on February 13 and was confirmed by the anti-graft body days later.

The Ombudsman blamed the termination on the AMLC’s failure to submit data pertaining to the bank accounts of the First Family.

The anti-graft body added that it was not obliged to disclose the results of its fact-finding investigation due to its confidential nature.

Carandang was appointed to the second highest position in the anti-graft body by former President Benigno Aquino III in October 2013.

He also served as Assistant Ombudsman under then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo and newly retired Ombudsman Morales. —With a report from Joseph Tristan Roxas/BAP/KG, GMA News