NBI busts case-fixing syndicate at the DOJBy Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Friday ordered the investigation of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Severino Gaña and his entire staff for possible extortion activities.
De Lima told reporters she gave the order after Gaña’s chief of staff, Mutya Santiago, was arrested for extortion by the National Bureau of Investigation.
“There may be charges also filed against him (Gaña). I will have him suspended if warranted. My standing instruction to NBI is to evaluate the statement [of the complainant] and other evidence pertaining to employees and to charge the others who were named if warranted.”
De Lima said Santiago was arrested on Friday by NBI agents in an entrapment operation in Gaña’s office after she allegedly accepted P150,000 in marked money from former Binibining Pilipinas titleholder Nuriza Abeja in connection with an adultery case filed against her by her estranged husband. Santiago was slapped with preventive suspension as administrative charges against her were being readied. She earlier posted bail after being criminally charged with extortion before the Manila regional trial court.
The secretary said another Department of Justice employee, a certain “Louie,” who was identified by the complainant as the one who made followups on the delivery of the extortion money, would also be investigated.
“I’m glad that someone came out to divulge these things to me…Imagine, the giving of the money occurred right here at the DOJ building. They’re that bold. That is why I was very, very angry upon learning about this,” she said.
“I thought all along that there was no more [case-fixing]. When I came in [as DOJ chief], some people told me there were case fixers but that they were lying low—that’s what I was made to understand. So when someone came to me with proof…it seems [case-fixing] has not yet disappeared,” she added.
The secretary said she hoped the incident was an isolated one and that the practice of case-fixing was not rampant. “But whether isolated or not, I want it stopped. I will run after whoever is involved in irregular activities,” she added.
Abeja had complained to the NBI that some people at the DOJ were asking her for money. Her husband had filed a petition for review in the DOJ after a Makati prosecutor dismissed the adultery case. The case has been pending in Gaña’s office for a year. Abeja said Santiago contacted her and asked her for P300,000 in exchange for a favorable decision. After negotiations, the amount was lowered to P250,000. Working with the NBI, Abeja agreed to pay.
De Lima said she instructed prosecutor Claro Arellano to order the internal affairs unit of the National Prosecution Service to investigate whether Gaña was involved in the extortion try.