CLAIMING that the Office of the Ombudsman denied him his constitutional right to due process, Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada on Wednesday filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking for a judicial review after the anti-graft body rejected his request for copies of the affidavits of the whistleblowers and other respondents in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Estrada, one of the three senators currently facing plunder complaints before the Ombudsman, in a 29-page petition for certiorari asked the high tribunal to protect his constitutional right to due process which, he said, the Ombudsman “grievously ignored, trampled upon and violated.”
The senator was referring to the denial of the Ombudsman of his request for copies of counter-affidavits of the respondents, affidavits of new witnesses and other filings in order to “be apprised of the allegations of the other respondents and to be given notice of all the evidence presented” incident to the preliminary investigation.
Estrada in his request particularly asked for copies of the affidavits of Ruby Tuason (former social secretary) and Dennis Cunanan (an official of the Technology Resource Center); the counter-affidavits of Gondelina Amata (president of the National Livelihood Development Corp.) and Mario Relampagos (undersecretary for operations of the Department of Budget and Management); the consolidated reply of the National Bureau of Investigation and the affidavit/counter-affidavits/pleadings/filings filed by other respondents and/or additional witnesses for the complainants.
But the anti-graft body in an order dated March 27, 2014 denied the senator’s request, saying there was no requirement that he be provided copies of the said documents.
“[The Ombudsman’s decision is] not just a procedural misstep but is tantamount to an absolute refusal to perform a positive duty imposed by law and constitutes grave abuse of discretion,” Estrada stated in his petition.
He also noted that the Ombudsman violated its own Rules of Procedure when it refused to furnish him copies of documents that touch upon the charges against him. The Ombudsman under its rules should expressly and unequivocally grant any person charged before it the right to access the records of the preliminary investigation.
“By intentionally withholding filings in its possession, including pieces of evidence it eventually used in precipitately deciding on the existence of probable cause, Ombudsman violated the right of Sen. Estrada to be apprised of the records of the case pertinent to the charges against him,” the petition further states.
The senator also cited a Supreme Court ruling upholding the right of the person under investigation by the Ombudsman to be furnished not only the evidence presented by the complainant, but also those presented by co-respondents that are material to the charge against him.
The Ombudsman on April 1, 2014 announced that it has found probable cause to indict Estrada and Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce-Enrile for plunder and other graft-related charges for their supposed involvement in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scandal.
The senators and other respondents filed their respective motions on the ruling last month and the anti-graft body has 60-days to act on it.