MANILA, Philippines - Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez said former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo should also be blamed for an allegedly defective charge filed against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.
Appearing before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Chavez said the defects in the information or charge sheet initiated by Marcelo “were blatant on its face…It was deliberately filed to fail or it was a result of shoddy craftsmanship.”
He said his group, Operation Clean Hands, filed 3 separate plunder charges from March to April 2005 against Garcia, former comptroller Jacinto Ligot and former budget officer George Rabusa.
He said the Ombudsman, headed then by “a certain Simeon Marcelo,” did not inform them of the developments of the case.
“What does this tell us? That it depends on the whim and caprice of the head of the Office of the Ombudsman whether to entertain a complaint or not? If there is an adverse result from his inaction, his or her successor should also be blamed,” he asked.
Marcelo no show
Chavez, who appeared before the Senate supposedly after being given a go-signal from his spiritual adviser, said his group found out 5 glaring defects in the information filed by Marcelo against Garcia. The information or charge sheet showed 5 defects, he added.
Marcelo did not appear in today’s hearing. Former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio said the lawyer is grieving over his father, who recently succumbed to colon cancer.
Chavez, insisting that he is bound to tell the truth, said his group had studied the case very carefully.
Both Marcelo and Chavez are known for their rifts in the media.
“I’m not in the business of criticizing another lawyer’s work, but if you look at information, you come to a conclusion that there are defects,” he said.
The information or charge sheet is a relevant part of the case. The court can only sanction a person based on the information filed by prosecutors. The person can’t be charged beyond that.
Flaws in the information
The 5 flaws he alleged are:
1) There is no allegation of specific public office at the time the plunder was committed. “If you go by jurisprudence of the SC, the allegation of a public office is an essential element,” he explained.
2) The profile of the evidence existing at that time when prosecution was presenting evidence to deny bail was insufficient to prove the predicate crimes. The predicate crimes attached to the plunder charge included receiving of commissions and gifts as well as “taking advantage” of his office.
Chavez referred to the letter of Garcia’s wife, Clarita, which the prosecution used as evidence to prove these predicate crimes. He said the letter was not under oath nor can it be admitted by virtue of a marital privilege.
3) The predicate crime of taking advantage of one’s position can’t be established because the specific public office is not alleged. “You don’t take advantage of your position as Major General. You take advantage of your position as deputy chief of staff for comptrollership,” Chavez noted.
4) While prosecutors alleged conspiracy, this was later stricken off the information, he noted. “What happened to his co-accused then,” Chavez stressed.
5) Chavez said the information should have included the predicate crimes of misappropriation and misuse of public funds and raid of public treasury.
He said the evidence to prove such is very strong, as was attested by the revelations of former Commission on Audit employee Heidi Mendoza.
“The evidence is very strong and yet by stroke of inadvertence, these were not included,” he added.
Villa-Ignacio, for his part, defended his former boss. He said Marcelo had already initiated a preliminary investigation on the matter even before Chavez’s group filed the charges.
As for the alleged flaws in the information, he said “the Sandiganbayan has already sustained its validity, both in form and substance.”