The National Prosecution Service (NPS) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) has defied Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s order to immediately issue summons against high-ranking officials of the Iglesia Ni Cristo over a complaint filed by an INC minister against leaders of the powerful religious sect.
As a result, The Manila Times learned, the issue of Isaias Samson Jr. against the church leaders will not immediately undergo preliminary investigation.
Instead, the complaint will undergo first an “evaluation stage” to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant formal preliminary investigation.
At this stage, the issue can be immediately dismissed if there is insufficient proof against the accused or it can be the subject of an initial probe.
“De Lima cannot interfere during preliminary investigation of the case,” a ranking DOJ prosecutor told The Manila Times.
No prosecutor has been assigned to conduct the preliminary investigation of the case despite de Lima earlier stating that it shall immediately undergo such probe.
The DOJ prosecutor said de Lima will be out of the department by October 28, when she is expected to file her certificate of candidacy for senator and other prosecutors will be the ones left behind to shoulder all the problems caused by the “talkative” Justice secretary.
The NPS is headed by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.
Another ranking DOJ prosecutor said de Lima is “messing up” the case by allowing herself to be interviewed by the media.
He added that it would be better if the case is tossed to the Quezon City Prosecutor’s office since it has jurisdiction over the case.
The only problem, the prosecutor said, is that the chief prosecutor of Quezon City, Donald Lee, is a classmate of de Lima at the San Beda College of Law.
The INC hierarchy last week held a rally joined by about 4,000 members at the DOJ against de Lima for allegedly giving special treatment to cases pending before her.
Samson, an ousted INC minister, lodged charges of serious illegal detention against high- ranking INC officials namely: Glicerio Santos Jr., Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago Sr., Mathu¬salem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Eraño Codera, Rodelio Cabrerra and Maximo Bularan.
Aside from the Samson patriarch, also named as complainants are his wife, Myrna Dionela Samson, and son, Isaiah Samson.
They alleged that they were prohibited from leaving their house in Quezon City last July after he was accused of being “Antonio Ebanghelista,” the blogger who has been writing against INC.
The elder Isaias, former editor in chief of INC’s official publication Pasugo, denied the allegation.
Under Section 2, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, officials authorized to conduct preliminary investigations are: “(a) Provincial of City Prosecutors and their assistants; (b) Judges of the Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts; National and Regional State Prosecutors; and Other officers as may be authorized by law.”
Another rule that was cited was the 2000 National Prosecution Service Rule on Appeal, which states that preliminary investigation is within the province only of prosecutors.