Duterte to snub graft probe

MANILA • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will not cooperate with a special anti-corruption prosecutor's investigation into allegations that he acquired ill-gotten wealth, and vowed he would "not submit" to its authority.

The Office of the Ombudsman last week said it was investigating claims that Mr Duterte's bank accounts had hundreds of millions of pesos (equivalent to millions of Singapore dollars) which he had failed to disclose as required by law.

President Duterte responded by lashing out at the ombudsman, calling the agency "lousy" and saying the allegations against him were "lies based on baseless" information.

"I will not submit to the jurisdiction (of the ombudsman)," he said in a curse-laden speech to lawyers last Saturday night.

"Waving fabricated evidence, lying to his teeth in front of the nation, and then you want me to submit to the jurisdiction of the ombudsman," Mr Duterte said, referring to Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang who had announced the probe.

Mr Duterte's remarks contradicted his spokesman's statement last week that the President respected the agency and trusted its impartiality.

Mr Duterte, 72, won last year's presidential election on a brutal law-and-order and anti-corruption platform. During the election campaign, he said he came from a poor family and lived a modest lifestyle, which boosted his image as an anti-establishment politician representing the common folk, analysts said.

The probe stemmed from a plunder complaint filed before the election by opposition senator Antonio Trillanes, who alleged that Mr Duterte embezzled government funds during his more than two-decade stint as mayor of Davao.

Last Saturday, Mr Duterte said his family had properties and businesses including an ice plant and lumberyard, adding that his late father was a provincial governor.

"All in all, it would not go beyond 40 million pesos (S$1.1 million), my lifetime savings. A part of that was my hereditary - you people from Davao know this - property," he said. "I hate to say it (but) what do you think of us, poor? That we are that poor?"

Mr Duterte has launched tirades against the Supreme Court Chief Justice, the Commission on Human Rights, the Catholic Church and critical media outlets. He and his allies have started campaigns to curb their powers or discredit them.

Last week, Mr Duterte said he would create a commission to investigate corruption in the Office of the Ombudsman, a move that an opposition congressman called an act of vindictiveness.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2017, with the headline 'Duterte to snub graft probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe