President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the dismissal of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Magtanggol Gatdula for being implicated in a kidnap-extortion case and the release of the report of a Department of Justice (DOJ) fact-finding panel on the reasons for why Gatdula should go.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will appoint an officer in charge to take over Gatdula’s post “at the soonest possible time,” according to deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
De Lima on Thursday said she would be releasing soon the report of the DOJ fact-finding panel dated Jan. 6, 2012, that found Gatdula and several other NBI officials liable for kidnapping and extorting money from a Japanese woman, Noriyo Ohara.
She said she submitted the report to the President on January 11.
According to Valte, “the President has no objections to the recommendations and the findings of fact contained in the report”.
At a press briefing Thursday, De Lima said the recommendations of the fact-finding panel are not yet final because they still have to be subjected to a preliminary investigation wherein probable cause would be determined before any case can be filed in court.
“We can never say, we cannot say that this is already conclusive but these are the facts as unearthed,” she said.
She said she would be creating a new panel to conduct the preliminary investigation of the NBI officials found liable by the fact-finding panel.
She said she accepted the findings of the panel with a heavy heart as “it’s not easy investigating our colleagues”. The NBI is directly under the justice department.
De Lima said she wanted a final determination of Gatdula’s culpability, either in relation to direct participation, obstruction of justice or just as an accessory.
She said the fact-finding panel will also be given a limited period of time to review its findings as far as Gatdula’s culpability for kidnapping and serious illegal detention are concerned.
“Given the rank, the status, given the magnitude, I just want to be very sure,” she said.
De Lima said she will also meet with Gatdula whose one-month leave ended last Monday.
“I can confirm that Director Magtanggol Gatdula will be replaced, but as to his replacement the President is still evaluating this,” she told reporters at the anniversary of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame.
She said Mr. Aquino was “still evaluating” the candidates for NBI director. De Lima would not say who were being considered to replace Gatdula, saying she did not want to preempt the President. But she admitted she would not hesitate to recommend CIDG chief, Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr., who was standing right behind her.
Deputy customs commissioner Danilo Lim on Thursday denied that he was lobbying for the post after a report came out that he had written to the President about it.
“If I’m recommended by Secretary De Lima, then I’ll think about it, but I did not apply or write anyone about it,” he said.
Lim, who was a candidate for senator in Mr. Aquino’s senatorial ticket in 2010, said De Lima had once asked him if she could recommend him for the NBI chief post.
According to the DOJ fact-finding panel headed by Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, “from the evidence gathered, it appears that there was a conspiracy to commit the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention defined and penalized under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659.”
It recommended for preliminary investigation for kidnapping and serious illegal detention NBI officials identified as Mario Garcia, special investigator and former head of the NBI security and management division head; his assets Chona Elen Esplana and Virgelito
Gutierrez; Raul Dimaano, special assistant adirector for Gatdula; and Jose Odellon Cabillan, Garcia’s former executive officer.
The panel said that based on the testimony of Cabillan, Gatdula “appears to have prior knowledge and participation as well as in its cover-up” in the operation to abduct and extort money from Ohara.
The panel recommended the filing of administrative charges against Gatdula for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, gross insubordination and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service; and Garcia, for gross misconduct, serious dishonesty, being notoriously undesirable; and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
It recommended for preliminary investigation for robbery and grave coercion Garcia, Esplana and Gutierrez; and falsification of documents against Garcia, Esplana and Cabillan.
It recommended that Garcia, Cabillan, NBI deputy director Rickson Chiong, NBI chief of the foreign liaison division Claro de Castro Jr. and Dimaano be charged for administrative
offenses. With reports from Philip Tubeza, Jaymee T. Gamil of PDI; and Tetch Torres, Jamie Elona, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted at 11:54 am| Thursday, January 19, 2012