September 25, 2012 · Posted in: General
A YEAR AND A HALF AGO, Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III was unceremoniously fired by President Benigno S. Aquino III for gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct after he was linked to an alleged extortion attempt that drove a dismissed Manila policeman to kill eight foreign hostages at the Quirino Grandstand in 2010.
On Tuesday, Manila’s major online news sites reported a Supreme Court decision ordering the immediate reinstatement of Gonzalez as Deputy Ombudsman for Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO), with full back wages to boot. This means Gonzalez returns to his former role as the primary ombudsman handling all cases involving military, police, and other law enforcement personnel.
In brief, the news websites reported that the Supreme Court ruled that there was no sufficient evidence presented by Malacanang to order the removal of Gonzalez from his post. The court ruled that the charge of gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct do not constitute a betrayal of the public trust, which the court said was the offence necessary for the removal of the Deputy Ombudsman.
The high tribunal also said that the Office of the Ombudsman was protected from interference by Malacanang, and it is this political independence that the court now wants to protect.
Gonzalez was ordered dismissed by President Aquino in March 2011, a full eight months after the Quirino Grandstand hostage incident that would form the basis for Gonzalez’ removal.
In October 2010, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported the findings of an independent body created by Malacanang to investigate the hostage-taking incident. In that report, the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) laid the blame for the hostage taking on the Office of the Ombudsman, and gave credence to allegations that some officials from the Office of the Ombudsman may have tried to extort money from the hostage-taker, leading to his rampage.
In particular, the IIRC cited reports that dismissed police Captain Rolando Mendoza was being asked by an official from the Office of the Ombudsman for P 150,000 for his reinstatement in the service. Mendoza had been dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2009 for allegedly extorting money from a motorist. During the hostage taking crisis, Mendoza consistently demanded his reinstatement in the police service.
While not naming the official, the IIRC report clearly alluded to Gonzalez, whom Mendoza, at one point during the hostage negotiations, had publicly accused of asking for money to fix his case.
The PCIJ also also talked to Mendoza’s last lawyer, Atty. Ernesto Cabrera, who disclosed that Mendoza had been trying to raise, not P150,000 as earlier reported, but P250,000, in order to pay off someone from the Office of the Ombudsman. In fact, Atty. Cabrera said, Mendoza had asked him for help to cash in on his PAGIBIG loan in order to raise the bribe money.