Statement from the Office of the Ombudsman
15 February 2018
The Office of the Ombudsman confirms that the fact-finding or field investigation on the complaints filed against the President was closed and terminated on 29 November 2017 after the Anti-Money Laundering Council declined to provide a report or confirmation on the requested vital data. By rule, “[a] closed and terminated field investigation is without prejudice to the refiling of a complaint with new or additional evidence.”
It has come to the knowledge of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales from the press briefing of Solicitor General Jose Calida conducted the other day that he has been informed of the closure and termination of the investigation, through a 12 February 2018 letter-response to his letter-inquiry dated 8 February 2018 addressed to Overall Deputy Ombudsman (ODO) Melchor Arthur Carandang.
The Solicitor General raised certain questions which may be answered by his own declarations. He asked why the Ombudsman kept quiet about the matter. Oddly, he himself pointed out that the Ombudsman had inhibited herself from the investigation. The Solicitor General might want to consider whether it is proper for an official who inhibited from an investigation to remain involved therein. The Ombudsman posits that it is not. In keeping therewith, the investigation was given free rein and proceeded without her intervention. In fact, the Ombudsman learned about such closure and termination only on 29 January 2018, upon an inquiry on the status thereof after learning that ODO Carandang was formally charged and placed under preventive suspension by the Office of the President.
The Ombudsman trusts that in the conduct of fact-finding investigations, efforts are exhausted to gather evidence and to comply with pertinent internal rules. Fact-finding investigations, under the rules, are generally confidential in nature. The Office is not obliged to inform the subject of the fact-finding investigation about its outcome. The confidentiality of proceedings was, in fact, recognized by the Solicitor General when he cited the exception that the Ombudsman has the power to publicize certain matters (e.g., whether or not to act upon an inquiry “out of curiosity” or media requests for case status out of journalistic duty). The Ombudsman could not have considered exercising such discretionary power relative to the complaints against the President due to her inhibition.
Finally, the Office observes that the Solicitor General effectively recognized Carandang as the Overall Deputy Ombudsman through his official letter-inquiry dated 8 February 2018 addressed to ODO Carandang who, at such date, had been “supposedly” under preventive suspension. The Office sees this as a recognition of the unconstitutionality of the preventive suspension order. ###