MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice on Friday said it will conduct its own investigation on the criminal complaint filed by partylist group Bayan Muna against former President Arroyo in connection with the botched US$329.48 million broadband contract with China’s ZTE Corp.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the DOJ has the authority to investigate criminal cases including violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act filed against incumbent and former government officials as per memorandum of agreement it signed with the Office of the Ombudsman.
“They can really file that kind of a case here because there is...an existing memorandum of agreement between the Ombudsman and the DOJ stating that when it comes to investigation of criminal cases including violating of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act there is no rule on exclusivity. So, the DOJ or any other investigative body can conduct investigation before it is referred to the Ombudsman," she told reporters.
De Lima said she will discuss with other officials of the DOJ the possibility of forming a panel of investigators that will investigate the complaint filed by Bayan Muna through its representatives Teodoro Casiño and lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares.
She said the DOJ will have to review thoroughly all the records and evidence that will be submitted before it involved alleged irregularities during the past administration in order to give the Ombudsman no other option but to elevate the case before the Sandiganbayan.
“We need to review thoroughly all the records and evidence so that the Ombudsman will have no other option but to file a case before the Sandiganbayan,” De Lima said.
De Lima added that the DOJ will play a big role in the “Truth Commission” which will be created soon by President Aquino to investigate wrongdoings committed by Mrs. Arroyo and her officials.
She noted while the Truth Commission is recommendatory in nature and the DOJ will assist in the buildup of cases to be filed against officials of the past administration.
In a 12-page complaint, Bayan Muna partylist group asked the DOJ to conduct the necessary serious investigation for the purposes of gathering additional evidence on the anomalous ZTE contract and subsequent filing of criminal charges against Mrs. Arroyo before the Office of the Ombudsman.
It can be recalled that the Office of the Ombudsman had dismissed the graft complaint earlier filed against Mrs. Arroyo by the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) in connection with the NBN-ZTE anomalies on the ground of immunity from suit.