Justice dep’t prosecutor arrested for extortion

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A state prosecutor at the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation for allegedly demanding some P2.5 million from members of an airline workers’ union.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she had authorized the entrapment of Assistant State Prosecutor Diosdado Solidum Jr., who was accused by 241 members of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (Palea) of asking them to pay him P2.5 million in exchange for dropping a case filed against them.

According to the NBI, Solidum was arrested on Thursday night by members of its counterterrorism division at a Quezon City establishment.

Solidum was to undergo inquest proceedings and formal charging at the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday, the NBI said.

 

Zero tolerance

“I’ve said it before and will say it again that I don’t mind undertaking such entrapment operations against our own people and suffering consequent embarrassment for the institution, if only to send a clear and strong signal that corruption has no place in the DOJ,” De Lima said in a text message to reporters.

“I will not stop until the scalawags among the DOJ ranks, especially prosecutors, stop permanently their nefarious activities and/or they are all caught and punished. My inflexible mantra is: the DOJ should be able to fulfill its mandate with zero corruption,” she said.

The case involved a complaint that the Philippine Airlines (PAL) management filed against the Palea members following their sit-down strike at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Sept. 27, 2011. The strike was to protest a controversial outsourcing scheme that led to the loss of more than 2,0000 regular jobs.

 

PAL complaint

The Palea members were charged by the Pasay City prosecutor’s office for violating Republic Act No. 9497, or the Civil Aviation Authority Act of 2008, which punishes the destruction or seriously damaging of airport facilities and disruption of airport services.

The union later filed a petition for review in the DOJ and Solidum was tasked to handle the appeal.

Palea claims the suit should have been dismissed outright because PAL’s lawyers failed to seek clearance from the Department of Labor and Employment before filing a case that stemmed from a labor dispute. The union cited internal rules adopted by the justice and labor departments as their bases.

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