MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice will take full jurisdiction over the plunder charges filed against former President Arroyo and her three former Cabinet officials for alleged misuse of around P550 million funds intended for the benefit of overseas Filipino workers.
In an interview, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters that the plunder complaint filed against the former president and her three Cabinet officials will go through the usual process such as the creation of a panel of prosecutors who will conduct a preliminary investigation.
De Lima stressed that the DOJ has concurrent jurisdiction with the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate plunder complaints involving former government officials.
"It's a plunder case that involves the former president so its a big case so I need to create a panel for that. I will be consulting the Prosecutor General on the composition of the panel to handle the plunder case against the former president," she told reporters.
“Of course we don’t shirk from any responsibility, we will have to do it if filed with us. I have concurrent jurisdiction, concurrent with the Ombudsman . We need to accept that and take cognizance of that and it should go thru the usual protest,” she added.
De Lima said she would ask the his prosecutors to check the status of a similar complaint also filed by Solicitor General Frank Chavez before the Ombudsman in 2004.
Likewise, the DOJ chief said she would also create a separate panel to investigate the graft complaint filed by Bayan Muna party-list against Mrs. Arroyo regarding the botched $329-million national broadband network deal with ZTE Corp.
“I will be considering to create already a panel…with this new complaint for plunder we can already start the preliminary investigation of two complaints at the same time. It will be different cases and probably different panel,” she added.
The DOJ secretary added that she will formally write the Truth Commission headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., to inform the body that the justice department will assume full jurisdiction over the cases .
The Truth Commission was earlier created by President Aquino to investigate all anomalies allegedly committed by officials of the past administration.
It was, however, enjoined by the Supreme Court from performing its duties after it declared its creation unconstitutional as it violates the equal protection.
The Court noted that Executive Order No. 1, which created the commission, singles out for investigation the report of graft and corruption in the previous administration.
Chavez, on Monday, filed a criminal complaint before the DOJ against former Mrs. Arroyo, Francisco Duque III, former president and chief executive officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and currently chair of the Civil Service Commission; Virgilio Angelo, former Overseas Workers Welfare Administration administrator; and Alberto Romulo, then executive secretary of Mrs. Arroyo for conniving to either divert or misuse OWWA fund.