Ombudsman asks anti-graft court: Reverse order clearing Taguig mayor over 2010 closure of city hall
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has petitioned the Sandiganbayan to reverse its decision absolving Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano of any criminal liability for the closure of the city council’s session hall in August 2010.
In a 12-page motion, the Ombudsman told the anti-graft court’s First Division that its resolution finding probable cause to indict Cayetano and city administrator Jose Luis Montales for felony was based on “facts and evidence adduced by the parties.”
It also reminded the court that “as a rule, courts should not interfere with the Ombudsman’s investigatory powers… and the authority to determine the presence or absence of probable cause.”
“The determination of probable cause lies within the discretion of the investigating prosecutor after the conduct of preliminary investigation…,” the Ombudsman said in its Jan. 5 petition.
“The judge should not override the public prosecutor’s determination of probable cause to hold an accused for trial on the ground that the evidence presented to substantiate the issuance of an arrest warrant was sufficient,” it added.
The case against Cayetano, wife of vice presidential candidate Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, and Montales stemmed from a complaint brought by Vice Mayor George Elias and the 17-member city council, whose members then belonged to a different political party.
Elias and the city councilors had accused Cayetano and Montales of illegally preventing them from holding their regular session by closing the session hall on Aug. 16, 2010.
The Ombudsman’s motion, signed by Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano Jr., also reiterated that trial courts should uphold the decisions of public prosecutors if there was no evident “showing of manifest error, grave abuse of discretion and prejudice.”
The Ombudsman said Cayetano and Montales failed to present any proof to belie its finding of possible guilt, saying the evidence against them were still “uncontroverted.”
While Cayetano claimed that her order to close down the session hall was meant to give way to the re-organization in the City Hall, the Ombudsman said evidence showed that only the session hall was padlocked for that purpose.
It also noted that Montales’ Aug. 16, 2010, letter informing the city council that its session hall would be closed down was sent on the same day Cayetano’s order was implemented.
“The intention of the accused is questionable and showed bad faith and fraud in preventing the members of the (city council) from holding its first regular session because of political affiliation,” the Ombudsman said.
It said the mayor’s order to padlock the session hall “deprived” the councilors of the “opportunity” to conduct their regular meeting, a violation of Article 143 of the Marcos-era edict Revised Penal Code.
In junking the case against Cayetano and Montales, the court said the Ombudsman failed to support its claims that the public officials prevented the councilors from holding their session using “fraud or force.”
“Upon a close examination of the evidence adduced… the court is of the opinion that the evidence on record fail to establish a probable cause,” the court said in its Dec. 11 ruling.
“The court is not convinced that the accused committed deception or made misrepresentation to the complainants when a new (and temporary) session hall was designated for (them) to use,” it added. SFM
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