The Office of the Ombudsman has exonerated Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Severino Gaña Jr. of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with administrative charges filed against him by a litigant in 2012.
A seven-page decision, signed and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, copies of which were sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ), found no substantial evidence against the DOJ deputy chief prosecutor for charges of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
The ruling was penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Fatima Kristine Franco-Ilao who ordered the dismissal of the complaint against Gaña.
Then-Justice secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima caused the filing of the charges against him and even pushed for his suspension despite lack of evidence.
“This Office finds no substantial evidence to demonstrate respondent’s use or misuse of authority, or transgression of some established rule of law nor a showing that respondent’s actions in the context they were made tarnished the image and integrity of his public service,” the decision stated.
The case stemmed from the administrative complaint filed by one Nuriza Jr. G. Abeja.
Abeja was a respondent in an adultery case filed before the Prosecutor’s Office of Makati City (Mmetro Manila).
The case was subsequently dismissed but was elevated to the DOJ on a petition for review.
During the pendency of the petition, one of the office staff of Gaña—Mutya Santiago-Tobes—allegedly informed Abeja that she could help fix the case for P300,000 until the price was lowered to P250,000.
On August 17, 2012, Abeja reported the matter to de Lima, who referred her to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which conducted an entrapment against Mutya.
A robbery (extortion) case was filed against Mutya before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 54 but the case was eventually dismissed after granting her demurrer to evidence.
In his counter-affidavit, Gaña explained that he met Abeja, who introduced herself as a member of a non-government organization (NGO) affiliated with Unicef, in one of the programs of the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, which he headed from 2006 to 2011.
He thought that Abeja’s visits were only by reason of their interactions in the programs but never mentioned to him that she had a pending case on appeal before the DOJ.
In the ruling dated November 25, 2016 that was released to the media only recently, Morales gave weigh to Gaña’s allegations “that he was not privy to the supposed transactions between complainant and Mutya.”
“Even the complaint affidavit shows that the alleged transaction was between complainant and Mutya only. Also, during the entrapment operation, the NBI operatives recovered the boodle money from Mutya,” the ruling opined.
According to the Ombudsman, Abeja never claimed to have talked with respondent in person regarding the alleged pay-off.
“The allegation that respondent insisted on the payment during phone conversations with the complainant remains just that,” the Ombudsman said. JOMAR CANLAS