SC dismisses Napoles petitions vs Ombudsman
THE Supreme Court dismissed the petitions filed by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles questioning the Ombudsman’s separate resolutions ordering the filing of criminal charges against her.
Napoles, in her petitions, said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales committed grave abuse of discretion and violated her right to due process when she ordered in June last year the filing of six counts of violation of the Anti-Graft Law and another six counts of malversation of public funds.
Napoles claimed that the complaint against her was insufficient in form and substance.
The high court, however, said as a matter of general principle, it would not interfere in the prosecutor’s or Ombudsman’s determination of the existence of probable cause.
“The power to determine whether a complaint is sufficient in form and substance is lodged with the Ombudsman, who may continue with the inquiry or dismiss it outright,” the SC said.
“The Courts are not empowered to substitute their judgment for that of the Executive Branch or the Ombudsman on this matter except only where the Ombudsman acts without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion, neither of which is present in this case,” it added.
If there are defects in the complaint or charge sheet, the high court said these could be addressed if Napoles has filed a motion to quash instead of a petition before them.
The high court added that assuming that defects occurred, these do not always mean a dismissal of the case but the court may order an amendment to the complaint.
In determining probable cause, the high court explained that “absolute certainty regarding the existence of the elements of the crime is not required but only those facts sufficient to support a prima facie case against [Napoles.]”
“Furthermore, technical rules of evidence are not applied in the course of a preliminary investigation proceeding. In fact…hearsay evidence can be the basis for determining the existence of probable cause in a preliminary investigation as long as there is substantial basis for crediting the hearsay,” the high court said.
Napoles’ other petition was dismissed for her failure to provide the adverse parties, the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan, with a copy of her petition.
On June 22, 2015, the Ombudsman issued several resolutions ordering the filing of criminal cases against lawmakers and Napoles.
The separate resolutions issued last year found probable cause to indict ex-Representatives Rozzano Rufino Biazon (Muntinlupa City), Rodolfo Valencia (1st district of Oriental Mindoro), Marc Douglas Cagas IV (1st district of Davao del Sur), Arrel Olaño (1st district of Davao del Norte), Arthur Pingoy, Jr. (2nd district of South Cotabato) and several others in connection with the pork barrel scam.
In five separate resolutions, Ombudsman Morales directed the filing of “informations” for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act [R.A.] No. 3019), Malversation (Article 217, Revised Penal Code [RPC]), and Direct Bribery against the five former lawmakers and officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), including ERC Chairperson Zenaida Ducut, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Technology Resource Center (TRC), National Business Corporation (Nabcor) and other purported non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including Napoles before the Sandiganbayan.
The five cases stemmed from separate complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Atty. Levito Baligod./rga