MANILA – The top public prosecutor of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Northern Mindanao, who also happens to be the president of the Prosecutors' League of the Philippines (PLP), has been accused of stealing a sports utility vehicle and harassing a private citizen in Aurora, Zamboanga Del Sur.
Complainant Jose Elbina of Barangay Maguikay in Aurora, Zamboanga Del Sur alleged that Region X Regional State Prosecutor Jaime Umpa, in conspiracy with policemen from the Aurora PNP, took away his Toyota Fortuner.
Umpa and the Aurora policemen are now subjects of a criminal complaint for car theft filed before the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of Zamboanga Del Sur, and a separate civil case of recovery of possession of motor vehicle before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Aurora Branch 30.
Elbina claimed that on the afternoon of Feb. 11, 2014, while driving his SUV, he was "stopped and apprehended by members of the Aurora PNP" and accused right then and there of carnapping.
Even as he insisted that he is the registered owner of the SUV he was driving, Elbina claimed that the policemen informed him that the vehicle was owned by the "Regional State Prosecutor of Region X."
"I am the registered owner of a Toyota Fortuner which I bought from CCR Car Display in Talisay City, Cebu, owned by Florito Caballero. The purchase is evidenced by a Deed of Sale dated July 20, 2012.
"The said vehicle has been registered in my name without incident and I have been using it for two years," Elbina pointed out in his complaint.
UMPA TAKES SUV
Elbina said his explanation and the documentary evidence he showed the policemen, and subsequently, Umpa, fell on deaf ears.
"Without any court order and without my consent, Umpa, in conspiracy with the Aurora Police, took away the said vehicle after being held in custody for a short period. Aware of my rights, I demanded repeatedly from Umpa the return of my vehicle but he has refused to do so," Elbina pointed out.
The complainant further alleged that Umpa harassed him and warned that should he file charges, Umpa "will also do everything in his power" to harass Elbina by also filing criminal charges.
Since Elbina pursued the criminal and civil case against the prosecutor, Elbina claimed Umpa made good his threats, and filed "baseless" charges of human trafficking against Elbina before the Provincial Prosecutor's Office of Lanao Del Norte, which falls under Umpa's jurisdiction, Region X.
ELBINA URGES DE LIMA TO PROBE UMPA
This led Elbina to formally urge Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to order the transfer of the venue of the case against him to Zamboanga Del Sur or Zamboanga City, and investigate Umpa.
"I believe that because of the power and influence of Umpa, being the Regional State Prosecutor of Region X, I cannot obtain a fair and credible preliminary investigation. Surely, injustice will prevail as Lanao Del Norte is under Umpa's power and influence.
"For as long as he remains the Regional State Prosecutor of Region X, the investigating prosecutor will not hesitate to side with him. In order to prevent a miscarriage of justice and so that the truth will prevail, I also pray, Madam Secretary, that the venue of the preliminary investigation of the case of human trafficking filed against me be transferred to Zamboanga City, if not in Zamboanga Del Sur," Elbina, in a letter-complaint to De Lima, said.
Elbina said he was filing the formal complaint against Umpa so that the Justice Chief may order a probe into the Aurora incident and mete the necessary administrative sanctions against the prosecutor.
Incidentally, Umpa is now seeking reelection for the PLP top post, the election of which will take place on Thursday, April 24.
Umpa's leadership at the PLP will be challenged by Muntinlupa City Prosecutor Aileen Marie Gutierrez, who is part of the DOJ's task forces on intellectual property, human trafficking, and illegal recruitment, and is the daughter of retired Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Angelina Gutierrez.