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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Philippines' Duterte says will snub graft probe

The ombudsman said last week it was investigating claims Mr Duterte's bank accounts had hundreds of millions of dollars which he failed to disclose as required by law

This photo taken on July 24, 2017 shows Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte gesturing as he delivers his state of the nation address at Congress in Manila. Mr Duterte has said he would not co-operate with a special anti-corruption prosecutor's investigation into allegations he acquired ill-gotten wealth. Noel Celis / AFP
This photo taken on July 24, 2017 shows Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte gesturing as he delivers his state of the nation address at Congress in Manila. Mr Duterte has said he would not co-operate with a special anti-corruption prosecutor's investigation into allegations he acquired ill-gotten wealth. Noel Celis / AFP

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has said he would not co-operate with a special anti-corruption prosecutor's investigation into allegations he acquired ill-gotten wealth, vowing he would "not submit" to its authority.

The ombudsman said last week it was investigating claims Mr Duterte's bank accounts had hundreds of millions of dollars which he failed to disclose as required by law.

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

"I will not submit to the jurisdiction [of the ombudsman]," Mr Duterte said in a curse-laden speech to local lawyers on 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.

He also threatened to investigate ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and her office for supposedly engaging in corrupt practices. The Office of the Ombudsman, in turn, said it will not be intimidated by Mr Duterte and will continue with its investigation.

Mr Duterte said he was willing to resign if Ms Morales and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno stepped down. Both are appointees of former president Benigno Aquino, whose allies Mr Duterte has blamed for trying to erode his leadership.

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

Mr Duterte, 72, won last year's presidential elections on a brutal law-and-order and anti-corruption platform.

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Read more: Duterte must explain undeclared sums of money, critics say

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

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

"All in all it would not go beyond 40 million [pesos or $785,000], my lifetime savings. A part of that was my hereditary — you people from Davao know this — property," Mr Duterte 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 then started campaigns to curb their powers or discredit them.

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