Court orders Ombudsman to probe Joseph Estrada pal Jaime Dichaves
MANILA, Philippines—The Sandiganbayan has directed the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation of businessman Jaime Dichaves, a coaccused of deposed President Joseph Estrada in the plunder case.
A special division of the antigraft court, voting 4-1, also denied Dichaves’ motion to quash the plunder charges against him.
Dichaves, who left the country before Estrada’s ouster in 2001, asked the court in December last year to dismiss his plunder case or order a reinvestigation. He had said that he intends to return to the country and face the charges against him.
He had also denied conniving with Estrada to amass ill-gotten wealth.
Estrada had pointed to Dichaves as the owner of the “Jose Velarde” account that had figured prominently in the former President’s impeachment and plunder trials. Estrada was accused of, among others, depositing billions in the Velarde account. He had also signed as Jose Velarde on bank documents. Estrada was eventually convicted of plunder, and later pardoned.
In its ruling, the Sandiganbayan said Dichaves had been unable to participate in the earlier preliminary probe of the case and was not served copies of the Ombudsman resolution on the case.
“This being the case … he was deprived of his right to a full preliminary investigation, which warrants the remand of the case to the Ombudsman and the quashing of the warrant of arrest against him,” it said.
The court said that if a person would be charged with a serious offense like plunder, due process dictates that he be given copies of the prosecution’s plea to include him in the charge sheet as an accused, and of the court’s approval of the motion.
The outcome of the Ombudsman’s probe would be submitted to the court for appropriate action.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.