'Deputy Ombudsman offered deal for Merci'

Posted at 03/04/2011 11:13 AM | Updated as of 03/04/2011 11:47 AM

Ombudsman's spokesman belies allegation

MANILA, Philippines - House Justice Committee Chairman Niel Tupas Jr. said on Friday that his father’s graft case is being used by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to influence her impeachment case.

Tupas revealed in an interview on ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda (UKG) that Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro went to his office in September 2010 and urged him to “go easy” on the impeachment case against Gutierrez.

He said Casimiro admitted that the graft case filed against his father, former Iloilo governor Niel Tupas Sr., is weak, but he had no choice but to pursue it and recommend it for filing at the Sandiganbayan.

Tupas said that Casimiro’s visit to his office transpired right after the House Justice Committee declared last year that the impeachment complaints against Gutierrez were sufficient in form and in substance.

“Sabi niya, ‘Congressman puwede bang tulungan ka dyan ni Ombudsman Gutierrez pero in return, dahan-dahan naman kayo sa impeachment,’” Tupas said.

Tupas said that in front of his staff at the House of Representatives, he turned down the offer and told Casimiro that even if he heads the House Justice Committee, he cannot influence the members of the committee.

The Office of the Ombudsman announced on Thursday that it has junked the motion for reconsideration filed by Tupas Sr.

In a 9-page resolution, the Ombudsman said there was no doubt that Tupas Sr. issued the permit to quarry to private contractor Melvin Requinto even if he claimed that he only relied on the recommendation of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board headed by the Regional Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau as chairman, with the Provincial Legal office representing the Office of the Governor as one of the members.

The Ombudsman said the former governor cannot invoke the Arias doctrine, where a head of an agency cannot be faulted for not personally examining every detail of a transaction before signing and approving it, because the facts in this case are different.

The Ombudsman also said that it is very clear that the private contractors were given undue advantage and preference by Tupas Sr.

Coincidental

In the same UKG show on Friday, Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus said that he believes Gutierrez had nothing to do with the offer, assuming Tupas Jr.’s claim is true.

“Wala kaming nalalaman na ganyang pangyayari. Walang nababanggit tungkol dito si Ombudsman Gutierrez,” De Jesus said.

He added that Gutierrez had no hand in Tupas Sr.’s case. In fact, he said Gutierrez chose to inhibit from the case to avoid possible allegations that she is using her position to influence the impeachment proceedings.

De Jesus insisted that the junking of Tupas Sr.’s motion for reconsideration was just “coincidental,” and that the case was carefully studied before it was elevated to the Sandiganbayan last year.

He said the Office of the Ombudsman elevated the case to the Sandiganbayan early last year.

“Mula nang ihain ito laban sa kanya sa Sandiganbayan, nawalan ng jurisdiction ang Ombudsman, maliban sa gagawing pag-uusig sa kanya through the Office of the Special Prosecutor,” De Jesus said.

He said that the Sandiganbayan passed the case back to the Office of the Ombudsman after Tupas Sr. filed the motion for reconsideration.

De Jesus said that the Office of the Ombudsman junked the motion for reconsideration because it believes that the case against Tupas Sr. is strong.