Editor's note: Repost to correct erroneous attribution of order to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. The order was issued by the Ombudsman investigating panel led by Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III. Our apologies.
MANILA, Philippines -- The Office of the Ombudsman?s Field Investigation Office (FIO) has been ordered to inquire further into the complaint filed by former Senate president Jovito Salonga against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the scandal-tainted national broadband network (NBN) deal.
The order was issued by the Ombudsman investigating panel led by Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III. The FIO was also ordered to finish its fact finding inquiry as soon as possible.
Assistant Ombudsman Jose Tereso De Jesus said the Salonga complaint was not consolidated with the seven other NBN-related complaints being investigated by the Ombudsman panel.
The complaint Salonga filed against Arroyo are for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Anti-Plunder Law, and Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
While acknowledging that Arroyo can invoke immunity from suit while in power, Salonga and the groups Kilosbayan and Bantay Katarungan said she does not enjoy immunity from being investigated.
Salonga's complaint is the second to name Arroyo as a respondent.
In October last year, former vice president Teofisto Guingona charged Arroyo with "dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice" for signing the $329-million NBN contract with China?s ZTE Corp.
Arroyo herself scrapped the contract late last year after the Senate opened its inquiry into the alleged overpricing and bribery that accompanied the deal and to which resigned Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. and her husband, Jose Miguel, were linked.
The Kilosbayan and Bantay Katarungan complaint is based on Arroyo?s February 23 interview over radio station dzRH in which she admitted that the NBN deal was flawed, and on the testimony before the Senate of former National Economic and Development Authority head Romulo Neri.
Meanwhile, De Jesus said all parties in the seven other NBN-related complaints will be required to submit their position paper before the consolidated case is submitted for resolution.
The "position paper is a sworn memoranda required of the parties under Ombudsman rules in administrative aspect, but maybe adopted in criminal case. It's a summation of pleadings and evidence, affidavits and other documents with citation of jurisprudence," De Jesus said.
The seven other complaints are:
1. A case filed by the National Bureau of Investigation against Emmanuel Ang, the commercial attaché who supposedly lost the NBN contract the night after it was signed in Boao, China, on April 21, 2007
2. A criminal complaint lodged in August 2007 by Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla against Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and two assistant secretaries for "giving undue advantage" to ZTE. Executives of the Chinese firm were also named respondents.
3. A request by lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr. on September 24, 2007 for the Ombudsman to investigate the President's husband and Abalos on their alleged links to the deal. Francisco's complaint was the first to directly name the President's husband in the controversy.
4. A graft complaint filed October 8, 2007 by lawyer Ruel Pulido against then Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and his son Jose III, the businessman who was the original whistleblower on the alleged anomalies in the NBN deal..
5. A graft complaint filed the following day by Akbayan party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, this time against Abalos, for allegedly brokering the deal and bribing a Cabinet official and a businessman to ensure that the project would push through.
6. The criminal complaint filed by Guingona and other quarters against Arroyo, describing the doctrine of presidential immunity as an "old, archaic" rule that applied to the kings of the past.
7. A complaint filed February 8 by Citizens? Battle Against Corruption party-list Representative Joel Villanueva against the First Gentleman and Abalos.