DOJ lets NPS to decide fate of Lapeña graft case

Published November 13, 2018, 7:57 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Jeffrey Damicog

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said he will let National Prosecution Service (NPS) determine if it will conduct an investigation or pass to the Office of the Ombudsman the complaint filed against former Customs Commissioner and current Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Isidro Lapeña.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra announces during a press briefing in Malacañang that the matter concerning the closure of the resorts in Boracay is currently one of the top priorities that are being discussed by the cabinet citing that it would not only concern the environmental aspect of the issue but the economic impact as well. (TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

“I will not pre-empt the state prosecutors who will look at the complaint,” said Guevarra.

Last Monday, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) a complaint against Lapeña whom it accused of violating Section 3, Pragrapgh (e) of Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The Ombudsman has jurisdiction in the preliminary investigation and prosecution of cases cognizable by the Sandiganbayan which include offenses committed in relation to office of public officials with salary grade 27 and above. Lapeña has a salary grade of 30.

These offenses, over which the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction, also include violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Plunder Law, and Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, among others.

For his part, Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon said his office was considering endorsing the complaint against Lapeña before the Ombudsman.

“Isa sa option ng DOJ ay i-endorso sa Ombudsman ang reklamo ng NBI laban kay dating Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña (One of the DOJ options is to endorse t\he NBI complaint against Lapeña to the Ombudsman),” he said.

The Ombudsman and Department of Justice (DOJ) has an existing memorandum of agreement (MOA) concerning jurisdiction over cases filed against public officials.

“The MOA has not been amended,” said Guevarra.

Under the MOA, the Office of the Ombudsman will have primary jurisdiction in the conduct of preliminary investigation and inquest proceedings over complaints for crimes cognizable by the Sandiganbayan.”

In its complaint, the NBI recommended that Lapeña be indicted with graft as well as administratively charged with gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct.

“The manifest indifference of Lapeña to the established rules and procedures has led to the release of the shipments, escaping the revenues that the Republic of the Philippines is entitled to,” read the complaint.

“These, when taken together, signifies the intention of Lapeña to cause injury to the government and took advantage of his office,” it added.