Two Supreme Court magistrates have expressed their belief that the Office of the Ombudsman violated the right to due process of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada when it denied the lawmaker’s access to documents and affidavits during its investigation on the pork barrel scam. Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Presbitero Velasco Jr., in separate dissenting opinions, said the plunder charges against Estrada filed before the Sandiganbayan were based on a questionable preliminary investigation.
The Office of the Ombudsman allegedly committed grave abuse of discretion when it unfairly concluded its probe and issued a resolution finding probable cause to indict Estrada without making available to him the allegations and documents which were used as basis for the decision.
Estrada had questioned such acts of the anti- graft agency before the SC but a majority of the magistrates upheld the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision to file charges before the Sandigan bayan.
The decision and the dissenting opinions were promulgated last Jan. 21 but the full text was made public only last week.
Both magistrates disagreed with their colleagues and even recommended to suspend the ongoing proceedings before the Sandiganbayan and to send back the case to the Office of the Ombudsman for another round of investigation.
Brion, one of the justices who moved to partially grant Estrada’s petition, even called the finding of probable cause by the Office of the Ombudsman as “largely one-sided,” and the preliminary investigation “gravely irregular.”
On May 7, 2014, the lawmaker bewailed the alleged lack of fairness and impartiality in the investigation and filed before the SC a petition to question and nullify the order of the anti-graft agency after the same denied his request to be furnished copies of the counter-affidavits of Ruby Tuason, Dennis Cunanan and other witnesses and respondents on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam case.
The ombudsman denied Estrada’s request for a copy of the affidavits on March 27 and on the very next day, March 28, it issued a ruling, which recommended the filing of charges before the Sandiganbayan.(M. Punong bayan, PS)