DoJ right place for GMA cases

PNS — JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima yesterday said the Department of Justice has jurisdiction over the case filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the botched US$ 329-million NBN-ZTE contract.

The cases lodged by party-list group Bayan Muna the other day raised the question of jurisdiction. Some quarters said the suits should have been filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.

“They can really file that kind of a case here, because there is a Supreme Court ruling that is reflective of an existing memorandum of agreement between the Ombudsman and the DoJ regarding investigations of criminal cases including those anti-graft and corrupt practices act as there is no rule on exclusivity,” she said.

She pointed out that the SC’s ruling allows the DoJ or any other investigative body to conduct an investigation before turning it over to the Ombudsman.

De Lima, who headed the Commission on Human Rights prior to her appointment to the DoJ, stressed that the Truth Commission will be basically recommendatory and there is need for the DoJ to help the commission in case build up.

Asked how President Aquino’s campaign against corruption will fare in his first 100 days, De Lima said: “It depends how soon the Truth Commission will be created. The executive order on that is now being drafted, aalamin muna ang exact parameters ng Truth Commission so that we would know how to handle, how to treat, yung mga sari-saring kaso against the previous administration na nakasampa na, at saka yung i-pa -file pa.”

The cases filed against Mrs. Arroyo were for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, and Revised Penal Code.

The specific charges under the RPC were qualified bribery (for refraining from arresting or prosecuting all those involved in the corrupt acts arising from or in connection with the NBN-ZTE project, in exchange for some offer, promise or present), corruption of public officials (as a conspirator in the endeavors to give bribe), fraud against the national treasury (for entering into the NBN-ZTE contract to defraud the government), possession of prohibited interests by a public officer, and violation of Presidential Decree 1829 (1981) Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offen-ders.

Mrs. Arroyo, who was elected and sworn-in the other day as representative of her hometown in Pampanga, was the lone respondent in the case filed by party-list group Bayan Muna.

Rep. Teodoro Casiño said the cases were only initial and more charges will be filed against her and other personalities over other controversial scandals that shook her government.

These include the Hello Garci and Fertilizer scams.