'Ombudsman told prosecutor to disengage from Garcia case'

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2011 11:41 AM | Updated as of Jan 26 2011 12:08 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED/CORRECTED) - A former special prosecutor revealed at a House justice committee hearing that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez asked him to "disengage" from the corruption case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

During the initial part of the committee hearing on Tuesday, former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio said the Ombudsman ordered all prosecutors working on the case to report to her directly. He also said the Ombudsman removes honest and competent prosecutors.

The “missing” Garcia showed up at the hearing, while Gutierrez and her deputies outrightly snubbed the justice committee’s investigation of the Garcia plea bargain agreement.

Garcia was at the hearing a considerable amount of time before the hearing began at around 10 a.m.

In stark contrast, Gutierrez and her deputy and special prosecutors sent a letter with 3 reasons why she declined participation.

The reasons are:

  • the Garcia case remains pending in the Sandiganbayan’s 2nd Division;
  • the Ombudsman is an independent and constitutional office;
  • the hearing, based on media reports, is not a probe in aid of legislation.

The letter drew the ire of lawmakers who felt Gutierrez was being arrogant, since it is up to lawmakers to determine what is and what is not in aid of legislation.

As a result, the committee unanimously voted to subpoena Gutierrez, Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, and Wendell Sulit, Robert Callos, Jesus Michael, Jose Balmeo, and Joseph Capistrano to the next hearing on Tuesday.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño expressed doubts as to how far the hearing today will go since it is the Ombudsman who should be answering questions.

Garcia is accused of plundering and laundering over P300 million while he was comptroller of the armed forces.