Sandra Cam fate up to Ombudsman, Palace makes clear

March 25, 2019
Sandra Cam

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte will not fire Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Sandra Cam, Malacañang said Tuesday, saying it was now up to the Ombudsman to investigate her alleged unexplained wealth.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima dared Duterte to fire Cam, who allegedly amassed more than P500 million in unexplained wealth since the President appointed her as PCSO official.

“From what I understand, somebody has already filed a case in the Ombudsman. So that’s the Ombudsman’s call now,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

He said Duterte, who had repeatedly said he would fire officials tainted with just a “whiff of corruption,” would no longer interfere in the allegations against Cam.

“Since it’s already with the Ombudsman, and the Ombudsman has the power to suspend, I think we’ll let it do the process,” he said.

Panelo said Malacañang would no longer conduct an independent investigation of Cam.

“We will not be duplicating any investigation considering the fact that there is now a pending case with the Ombudsman,” he said.

In a complaint filed in the Office of the Ombudsman, a certain Lino Espinosa Lim Jr. alleged that Cam owned several properties in Masbate province, which she failed to declare in her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) for 2017 and 2018.

Axed Duterte men

President Duterte has urged the Office of the Ombudsman to file charges against and investigate government officials he fired for corruption.

“There is corruption. I told the Ombudsman. Investigate and file charges,” Duterte said in a speech during the campaign rally of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-laban) in Cagayan de Oro on Sunday night.

Since he assumed the presidency in 2016, Duterte said he would fire government officials even with just a “whiff of corruption.”

In his corruption drive, Duterte’s longtime allies and closest aides were axed from the Cabinet.

Among those fired was Peter Laviña, who served as spokesman for Duterte during the 2016 national elections, following corruption allegations at the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

He also fired former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno in April 2017 due to corruption allegations over the irregular purchase of the Rosenbauer firetrucks from Austria.

Even Duterte’s fraternity brothers at Lex Talionis, Michael B. Robles and Al C. Argosino, who are former associate commissioners at the Bureau of Immigration (BI), were fired after allegedly extorting money from Chinese gaming tycoon Jack Lam.

The President also sacked former Urban Poor Commission Chairman Terry Ridon for his frequent trips abroad.

Malacañang had earlier said it was the Ombudsman who must initiate the investigation of fired officials and not the Office of the President.