Gatdula asks DOJ to suspend prelim probe on extort case

Posted at 03/09/2012 5:13 PM | Updated as of 03/09/2012 5:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Magtanggol Gatdula has formally asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to suspend its preliminary investigation into a criminal complaint against him and several others for the alleged kidnapping and extortion of an undocumented Japanese national, citing the pendency of a civil case he filed before a Manila trial court.

In a 10-page petition to suspend proceedings, Gatdula invoked Sec. 6, Rule 111 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which states: "[a] petition for suspension of the criminal action based upon the pendency of a prejudicial question in a civil action may be filed in the office of the prosecutor..."

On January 26, Gatdula filed with the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) a petition for certiorari and prohibition against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and members of a DOJ fact-finding panel that investigated the alleged abduction, detention, and extortion of Noriyo Ohara last October by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). The panel, in its report, found Gatdula and several others liable for the alleged incident.

The panel concluded that Gatdula had "prior knowledge of the criminal operation... monitored the conduct of the same, and received from Cabillan, through his Special Assistant (Raul Dimaano), part of the initial proceeds of the ransom money; and who, from other direct and several pieces of circumstantial evidence, is shown to have knowledge and participation in the operation and in its cover-up."

Ohara subsequently filed a complaint against Gatdula, NBI Security Management Division (SMD) Chief Mario Garcia; NBI 'assets' Chona Elen Esplana and Virgelito Gutierrez alias 'Labsky;' Gatdula's former special assistant, Raul Dimaano; former NBI-SMD Executive Officer Jose Odellon Cabillan; and Gutierrez's driver, Jay Ducusin, before the DOJ.

The DOJ set the first preliminary investigation hearing on the complaint on March 12.

"The pendency of the petition for certiorari and prohibition, which challenges the legality of the Department Order No. 1007 creating the DOJ fact-finding panel... whose recommendation became the basis of the present criminal investigation, poses a prejudicial question that must first be resolved to determine whether or not the latter should continue," Gatdula's petition before the DOJ read.

Gatdula insisted that the prejudicial question on the legality of the creation of the panel must first be resolved since it "would be determinative... of the guilt or innocence of the accused in the criminal case."

"From the foregoing, it is apparent that a prejudicial question really exists. The petition for certiorari and prohibition was filed away ahead of Noriyo Ohara's complaint-affidavit... a court ruling granting the respondent's petition is certainly definitive of the viability of the existing investigation.

"The striking out of the Department Order No. 1007 and all its results as null and void will tell that the preliminary investigation has no more leg to stand on," the petition stressed.