SC sacks employees for treasure hunt in Baguio compound
BAGUIO CITY—The compound where Supreme Court (SC) justices hold and stay for their annual summer sessions has not been spared from hunting for the fabled Yamashita treasure.
And for the illegal diggings from 2013 to 2015 near the Baguio cottages of Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. and former Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr., the Supreme Court ordered the dismissal of two contractual employees, Elvie Carbonel and Edgardo Hallera, and the suspension for two years without pay of their supervisor, Teofilo Sanchez.
The high court acted on the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation that the diggings were part of an operation to hunt for treasures believed left behind by Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita and his soldiers before the end of World War II.
“These actions could only have been perpetrated for their own personal enrichment, considering that such activities were covertly carried out without the knowledge and permission of the court,” said the court’s en banc ruling.
The high court learned about the diggings near the justices’ cottages after Carbonel asked its offices of administrative services to charge Sanchez and Hallera with “grave misconduct relating to the illegal and unauthorized digging and excavation activity.”
Carbonel accused Sanchez of ordering the excavations “to search for hidden Japanese treasures,” which she claimed had compromised “the structural soundness of the foundation of the cottages,” according to the court.
Citing the NBI report completed in 2016, the court said witnesses’ testimonies indicated that Carbonel, Hallera and Sanchez had knowledge about the excavations.
“It is clear that Hallera and Carbonel took advantage of their positions as casual utility workers assigned as the caretakers of the cottages … in order to engage in treasure-hunting activities in search for hidden Japanese treasures on the SC compound-BC grounds,” the court concluded. —VINCENT CABREZA