SC allows probe of Erap accounts | Inquirer News

SC allows probe of Erap accounts

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:48 AM July 01, 2022
Ombudsman Samuel Martires may proceed with his investigation of the bank accounts of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada and several others, according to the Supreme Court.

Former President Joseph Estrada. INQUIRER.NET FILE PHOTO

Ombudsman Samuel Martires may proceed with his investigation of the bank accounts of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada and several others, according to the Supreme Court.

In an 18-page decision promulgated on March 29 but only made public on June 28, the high court’s First Division ruled that the Ombudsman has the authority to inquire into the bank deposits of public officials and employees under investigation.

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The Supreme Court dismissed the petition filed by Allied Banking Corp., now the Philippine National Bank (PNB), which challenged the Ombudsman’s ruling ordering the bank to produce the records of the savings, current, time deposit, trust and foreign currency deposits in the names of the former president, Jose Velarde, Laarni Enriquez, Guia Gomez, Joy Melendrez, Peachy Osorio, Rowena Lopez, and Kevin or Kelvin Garcia.

The investigation was prompted by several complaints filed against Estrada after he stepped down from his post, according to the Ombudsman.

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No jurisdiction

The high court likewise affirmed “in toto” the June 16, 2006, decision of the Court of the Appeals (CA), which ruled that its jurisdiction over the Ombudsman’s orders or decisions extends only to those rendered in administrative disciplinary cases.

The motion for reconsideration filed by PNB was also dismissed by the CA on Sept. 20, 2006.

This prompted PNB to elevate the issue to the Supreme Court on a petition for review.

PNB argued that the CA erred in ruling that it has no jurisdiction over petitions seeking to question orders of the Ombudsman issued in the ordinary course of its investigatory powers.

But the Supreme Court, in its decision, said the CA was correct in saying that it has no jurisdiction over the petition assailing the Ombudsman’s order compelling the bank to produce the bank documents and records.

“Established is the rule that the CA has jurisdiction over orders, directives and decisions of the Ombudsman in administrative disciplinary cases only. It cannot, therefore, review the orders, directives or decisions of the Ombudsman in criminal or nonadministrative cases,” the Supreme Court said.

Investigation still active

The high court stressed that Estrada was convicted of a criminal case after he was found guilty of plunder and was imprisoned for his conviction.

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It noted that while Estrada received executive clemency and his rights, civil and political, has been restored, the investigation on the issue against him and several others remains active.

“Notwithstanding, per records of this case, it was certified by the Ombudsman that ‘it appears that relative to G.R. No. 174755 entitled ‘Allied Banking Corporation v Office of the Ombudsman,’ CPL No. 01-0247 docketed as OMB-C-C-02-0614-I, is still active in the CCMS (Complaint and Case Monitoring System) database. It would seem that the investigation against Estrada et al., is still active. Hence, the need to resolve the instant case,” the Supreme Court said.It also said that “… at the time of the issuance of subpoena duces tecum addressed to petitioner, the prevailing doctrine is that the Ombudsman may examine and access bank accounts and records in aid of their investigation, even without a pending litigation.”

“Without a doubt, the Ombudsman had the authority to issue the assailed subpoena duces tecum addressed to petitioner requiring it to produce the subject bank accounts of Estrada et al.,” the court added.

“All told, We find no reason to overturn the rulings of the CA and the Office of the Ombudsman,” it said. INQ

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TAGS: Erap, Joseph Estrada, Ombudsman, Supreme Court
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