November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

10 vie for Special Prosecutor post

THE JUDICIAL and Bar Council (JBC) has received 10 nominees for the Special Prosecutor seat of the Office of the Ombudsman, to replace the seat vacated by former Special Prosecutor Wendell E. Barreras-Sulit whose term ended last March 11.

The applicants include former Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto G. Sandoval, Makati City Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin T. Pozon, Acting Ombudsman Special Prosecutor Omar L. Sagadal, former Commission on Elections law department head Ferdinand T. Rafanan, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines law professor Arnold C. Bayobay.

Also vying for the post are Former Ombudsman Mindanao lawyer Eusebio M. Avila, former Ombudsman Prosecution Bureau Director Diosdado V. Calonge, and private lawyers Francisco Alan L. Molina, Raymundo Julio A. Olaguer, and Vernand V. Quijano.

The 10 will have a public interview on May 24 at the Supreme Court.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) is mandated to pursue cases against erring government officials at the anti-graft court.

Under Republic Act No. 6770 or the “Act Providing for the Functional and Structural Organization of the Office of the Ombudsman, and for other Purposes,” the OSP is empowered to “conduct preliminary investigation and prosecute criminal cases within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan and enter into plea bargaining agreements.”

Among the highly anticipated cases lodged before the Office of the Ombudsman are the plunder and graft cases against alleged pork barrel-scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Following the Court of Appeals (CA)’s recent acquittal of Ms. Napoles on the serious illegal detention case, her lawyer, Stephen David, said Ms. Napoles is open to stand as state witness in the government’s ongoing review of the multi-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) cases.

Mr. David has sought Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II on the possibility of Ms. Napoles being placed under the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program.

However, Section 17, Rule 119 (Trial) of the Rules of Court (regarding the discharge of accused to be state witness) provides that: “When two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any offense, upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or more of the accused to be discharged with their consent so that they may be witnesses for the state...after requiring the prosecution to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge....”

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Tuesday said her office will “block” any move to turn Ms. Napoles state witness.

“As [far as] the prosecution is concerned, she is one of the principal alleged malefactors. Certainly the OSP (Office of the Special Prosecutor) will block any attempt to make her state witness,” Ms. Morales told reporters in an ambush interview on Tuesday, May 16.

“It is the OSP which will consider whether or not she will be a state witness. And it’s going to be the court [that] will finally approve whether or not she is going to be a state witness,” she also said.

Ms. Morales has been threatened with impeachment by the Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC), but a complaint has yet to be lodged at the House of Representatives.

A disbarment case was also filed against Ms. Morales last March by senatorial also-ran Greco Antonious Beda B. Belgica, but the Supreme Court has junked the complaint.