THE Department of Justice (DOJ) is in limbo on how it would prosecute a plunder case against former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga since the case falls within the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Truth Commission.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday admitted to the dilemma, citing complications in the filing of criminal charges against Mrs. Arroyo since there are other agencies that are handling a similar case.
Under the 1987 Constitution, only the Office of the Ombudsman has the power to file such charges before the Sandiganbayan against any government official in connection with his or her performance of duties.
De Lima would create a panel of prosecutors despite the complications.
She said that she will write a letter to the Truth Commission headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.
The DOJ chief pointed out that like any other case, the plunder case of Mrs. Arroyo will undergo the usual process, similar to what she did in a plunder case filed by Col. George Rabusa against former generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“I will be consulting (Prosecutor General Claro Arellano) on the composition of the panel to handle the plunder case against the former president. So, of course, we don’t shirk from any responsibility. We’ll have to do it. It’s filed with us. I am having a concurrent jurisdiction with the Ombudsman. We need to accept that. We need to take cognizance of that and that should go through the usual process,” she said.
There are two pending plunder cases against Mrs. Arroyo in the Justice department after stepping down from the presidency and losing her immunity from suit.
Both cases were filed despite the department lacking jurisdiction to hear them.
The first plunder case was filed by taxpayer Danilo Lihaylihay alleging that the respondent violated the law after selling the lot of the former Iloilo airport to Megaworld Corp. in 2007 for P1 billion.
The second plunder case was filed in connection with Mrs. Arroyo’s alleged misuse of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds.
Another former president, Jo¬seph Estrada, also on Wednesday said that Mrs. Arroyo should be made accountable for her past actions and the anomalies that surrounded her administration.
Estrada’s statement came a day after the filing of the latest plunder case against the now Pampanga lawmaker by former Solicitor-General Frank Chavez.
No Arroyo statement
Mrs. Arroyo’s spokesman, Elena Bautista-Horn, also on Wednesday told ABS-CBN News that the former president will not issue any statement until she receives a copy of the Chavez complaint.
The former president also came under fire from a former Estrada ally, Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson also on Wednesday said that he was gathering and preparing more evidence that could be used in the plunder charges filed against Mrs. Arroyo.
During a chance interview in Cavite province, south of Manila, the senator added that he has documents to prove the alleged anomalies during the Arroyo administration.
Lacson joined President Benigno Aquino 3rd in the province for the inauguration of the newly completed seven-kilometer R-1 Expressway Extension, Segment 4 of the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Project (MCTEP), also known as Cavite Expressway (Cavitex).
During his speech at the inauguration, President Aquino acknowledged the senator and expressed happiness to see Lacson again.
“Ako’y nagagalak na talagang nakikita kita ulit [I am glad to really see you again],” the President said.
Also during the chance interview, Lacson said that he would have given Mr. Aquino the “lowdown” on where he had been during his more than a year of hiding if the President had asked him.
Lacson said that the President, during their first meeting in Malacanang since he resurfaced on March 26, did not ask bout his whereabouts since he went into hiding.
Lacson left the country on January 5, 2010, days after he was charged in the Dacer-Corbito murders.
The senator came out after the Court of Appeals lifted with finality arrest warrants against him.
Lacson said that he has no plans to apply for a government position under the new administration and that Mr. Aquino did not offer him any Cabinet position.
“There was no offer,” the senator said. “I think it is unethical for a person to apply for a government job. Not only unethical. It is also insulting or annoying to the appointing authority.”
FRANCIS EARL A. CUETO AND CRIS G. ODRONIA