Kabayan says sorry to Ombudsman over Roque’s bribery claims
MANILA — The Kabayan Party-list has disowned the “irresponsible statement” of Rep. Harry Roque regarding alleged bribery at one of the Office of the Ombudsman’s prosecuting arms.
Joshua Sebastian, who identified himself as the secretary-general, wrote the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor to apologize “on behalf of Kabayan Party-list” after Roque claimed in a Jan. 3 radio interview that “bribery is taking place at OSP.”
But, Roque took exception to Sebastian’s representation, and dubbed him a “usurper” who “has not been duly elected” as secretary-general.
This marks the latest development as in-fighting ensued after an internal probe was initiated against Roque for his sexually charged remarks during the hearing on Senator Leila de Lima’s love affair with security aide Ronnie Dayan, the man whom President Duterte has accused of collecting bribe money for De Lima from drug lords imprisoned in the New Bilibid Prisons.
Sebastian’s Jan. 6 letter to Special Prosecutor Wendell Barreras-Sulit read that Roque’s statement “does not reflect the sentiments of Kabayan Partylist members.”
The letter, which was released to reporters on Wednesday, stated that the neophyte lawmaker would be asked to “make the necessary explanation on the matter.”
“Certainly, Kabayan Party-list does not support such highly irresponsible behavior of imputing malice to our dedicated and honest public servants so as to gain media attention,” read Sebastian’s letter to Sulit, a copy of which was given to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
Sulit earlier issued a statement on Jan. 5 denouncing Roque’s “unfounded and libelous” bribery allegations and challenging him to name the prosecutors involved.
Sought for comment, Roque told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he “will not apologize for wanting to reform the criminal justice system.”
The lawmaker insisted that the dismissals of the national broadband network and fertilizer scam cases were the bases for his statement. “These could not have been dismissed for lack of evidence, given what the Senate investigations have already unearthed,” he said.
Roque also did not recognize Sebastian’s authority, because he was not elected through a party congress. According to Roque, Vic Caguimbal, who signed his nomination papers for the election, is the incumbent secretary-general.
Roque said Sebastian’s apology letter was “obviously meant to curry favor on behalf of his principal,” Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo.
He said the party-list’s second representative has been facing a a plunder and graft complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman for his role as the corporate secretary of the supplier involved in the controversial P3.8-billion license plate deal.
“This is plain and simple ass-licking on Salo’s part,” Roque said. SFM