February 22nd, 2012
February 21, 2012 8:36pm
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) deputy director Reynaldo Esmeralda and at least two other people were injured in an ambush in Manila’s Paco district Tuesday night, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.
In an interview on dzBB radio, de Lima said Esmeralda was in a three-vehicle convoy when two men riding tandem on a motorcycle fired at them.
“Galing sila opisina, meron daw nag-ambush, riding in tandem. Fortunately daplis siya, ang driver at kapatid niya may tama. (They came from the office when they were ambushed in Paco by men riding in tandem on a motorcycle. Fortunately he got away with a flesh wound. His driver and a sibling were injured),” she said, citing initial information.
The Justice Secretary said Esmeralda and his companions were brought to the Manila Doctors’ Hospital for treatment. She said the Department of Justice will investigate the ambush.
De Lima declined to say for now if the incident was related to the row involving the firing of NBI chief Magtanggol Gatdula over the alleged extortion attempt on a Japanese national.
But she pointed out she already announced to the media she and some of her officials, including Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and assistant secretary Zabedin Asis, were facing “security threats.”
De Lima said Baraan received a text message one to two weeks ago although she said the threat was “implied.”
“We cannot say at this point kung related, I’m saying may threat (I cannot say if this is related to the case involving the leadership row at the NBI. I’m just saying some DOJ and NBI officials are facing threats),” she said.
Heavily armed NBI agents later took positions at the Manila Doctors Hospital after Esmeralda and his companions were admitted.
The NBI agents kept mum on the incident and would only say they were “not authorized” to speak, radio dzBB’s Cecilia Villarosa reported.
But the dzBB report quoted hospital staff as saying Esmeralda and his companions were “conscious” and “coherent.”
Gatdula court victory
Also on Tuesday, the Manila regional trial court ordered the DOJ to freeze its the preliminary investigation of charges against former NBI Director Gatdula. Secretary de Lima said the DOJ will ask the court to reconsider.
Gatdula was able to convince Judge Felixberto Olalia of the Manila RTC Branch 8 that DOJ officials had prejudged the preliminary investigation on his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of a Japanese woman, Noriyo Ohara, last October.
“Considering the events which transpired, it would seem that the said prejudgment resulted in violation of the ‘sub judice’ rule, which ‘restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice,” Olalia ruled Tuesday.
Olalia was also convinced by Gatdula’s assertion that the evidence the DOJ relied upon in its fact-finding probe cannot be used in the preliminary investigation because the evidence was allegedly obtained illegally.
Gatdula legal counsel Abraham Espejo said the DOJ panel violated Gatdula’s right against self-incrimination when they got him to participate in the fact-finding probe and make statements as a resource person, not as a respondent.
In his 11-page resolution, Olalia also said video recordings Gatdula presented showed statements of Secretary de Lima and President Benigno Aquino III.
The judge said de Lima’s and Aquino’s statements in the interviews showed prejudgment on Gatdula’s case and alleged violation his constitutional right to due process.
Olalia pointed out that while DOJ prosecutors are not judges nor jurors—on whom the sub judice rule usually applies—their preliminary investigation recommendation could result to the sending of Gatdula to jail while awaiting trial.
No judicial role
“When I created the fact finding panel, I was not exercising any judicial or quasi-judicial function, only administrative, because the Secretary of Justice in the first place does not have a judicial or quasi judicial function,” de Lima asserted.
She also said there was no grave abuse of discretion on her part and that the court cannot intrude on her exercise of administrative powers.
The fact-finding panel said there is sufficient evidence linking Gatdula to the alleged abduction of Ohara. The panel’s report was submitted to Aquino, who subsequently dismissed Gatdula from his post.
“A reading of the transcript of the interview [of De Lima] showed that there indeed is a prejudgment regarding the liability of the petitioner in the case of kidnapping of Ohara, and what remains to be determined is not the petitioner’s involvement in the alleged crime, but merely the degree of his culpability,” Judge Olalia said. — ELR, GMA News
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