3 prosecutors get 60-day suspension
President Rodrigo Duterte has suspended for 60 days three government prosecutors for releasing from police custody three individuals who were arrested at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) for smuggling into the country some P6 million worth of jewelry.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued a memorandum on May 21 meting out the penalty against Pasay City Prosecutor Benjamin Lanto, Assistant State Prosecutor Florencio dela Cruz Jr. and Associate Prosecution Attorney Clementine Villanueva “upon the directive of the President.”
The three were among 10 government officials who were publicly called out by Mr. Duterte on May 17 for alleged involvement in corruption.
Prima facie evidence
In a two-page memorandum, Guevarra told the three state prosecutors that there was prima facie evidence to indict them for gross neglect of duty, gross incompetence and inefficiency after they signed a resolution directing the police to free Customs officer Lomontod Macaband, Abraham Mimbalawang and his wife Bang-sa.
The three were held at Naia Terminal 3 on May 5 after they were caught carrying a bag containing some 1.9 kilograms of assorted jewelry from Dubai.
Guevarra also directed Lanto, Dela Cruz and Villanueva
to submit within 10 days their answer to the allegations against them.
“Otherwise, failure to submit the same shall be deemed
as a waiver of your right to be heard,” he said in his memorandum.
“Be reminded that your answers should contain an indication as to whether you elect a formal hearing. Noncompliance with this requirement shall be considered a waiver of such right,” Guevarra added.
Recommendations from IAU
He said he had instructed the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) of the National Prosecution Service, an agency under the Department of Justice, to make a recommendation based on the evidence submitted by the three prosecutors and IAU investigators.
In a separate order, Guevarra named Pasay Deputy City Prosecutor Dolores Pulgo-Rillera as Lanto’s temporary replacement.
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