Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez is said to have received a scolding from President Arroyo for recommending the withdrawal of charges against one of the country’s most wanted kidnappers and six of his gang.
The President met with Gonzalez at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, which briefly discussed the dismissal of the case against Amrodin Makasilang.
A Palace source told The Times that the President was angry about the dismissal of the case against Makasilang, listed by the government as the 13th most wanted kidnapper, because of its impact on the administration’s campaign against kidnapping.
In a resolution Gonzalez granted the motion for reconsideration filed by Makasilang and ordered the withdrawal of the information against him and six of his men.
Gonzalez signed the resolution although it had not been reviewed by the Chief State Prosecutor and the Assistant State Prosecutor, which is the usual procedure.
Malacañang wanted to know if there was a way the resolution could be recalled. Deputy Executive Secretary Joaquin Lagonera has asked the Department of Justice not to send the resolution to the Parañaque City court handling Makasilang’s case.
Makasilang was one of four kidnapping suspects presented by the National Antikidnapping Task Force to President Arroyo on March 22, 2002.
He also appeared in the task force’s most wanted posters with a P500,000 price on his head.
In the 15-page resolution, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, Gonzalez granted the motion for reconsideration filed by Makasilang and ordered the withdrawal of the information against him and coaccused Lago Diamla, Rascal Sarangani, Yasser Palman, Nornor Diemla, Maxi Makasilang and Sam Makasilang. Only Makasilang, Diamla, Sarangani and Palman are in government custody.
Gonzalez reversed the findings of Parañaque City Prosecutor Joaquin Escobar on June 15 and a resolution of Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño on October 25, 2002, citing lack of probable cause.
A source in Malacañang said a member of Tarlac’s provincial board sought the help of Bishop Oscar Pindero, formerly of the Jesus Is Lord Movement, in getting the Palace to dismiss the case against Makasilang.
The letter was first sent to the Interior and Local Government Secretary Angelo Reyes, but Reyes refused to act on it, saying it was up to the court to decide the case.
Reyes sent the letter to Malacañang, which passed it on to Gonzalez for action.
At the Cabinet meeting, Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Merceditas Gutierrez questioned the Public Attorney’s Office’s involvement in Makasilang’s case.
Gutierrez said the PAO should represent only underprivileged clients.
The PAO has petitioned the Parañaque Regional Trial Court to dismiss the case against Makasilang.
In a motion to quash, PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta asked Judge Raul de Leon to drop the kidnapping charge because it is baseless.
Acosta cited Gonzalez’s resolution recommending the dropping of the case.
She asked the court to set a hearing for November 11.
— With Jomar Canlas
Ma. Theresa Torres