Ex-NBI officials to question ouster before SC

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Friday, March 14, 2014

TWO former ranking officials of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will soon question before the Supreme Court (SC) the decision of President Benigno Aquino III to remove them from office.

At a press briefing on Friday, former NBI deputy director for special investigation services Ruel Lasala and former deputy director for intelligence services Reynaldo Esmeralda said Aquino cannot easily sack career officials like them.

A career official rises from the ranks unlike political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the President.

Esmeralda lamented that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who recommended their ouster, did not provide a clear reason for their relief.

Asked for comment, de Lima said both officials were axed due to "integrity and trust issues." She said she is convinced that Esmeralda and Lasala have soiled reputation although she has yet to find concrete evidence against them.

"I may not have the concrete evidence but I have reason to conclude," she told reporters.

The NBI reorganization came six months after Aquino suspected two NBI officials of leaking the arrest warrant against alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles and her brother, Reynald Lim, in a serious illegal detention case filed by whistleblower Benhur Luy.

Aquino did not name names but people surrounding Esmeralda and Lasala told them that they may be the officials being linked to the alleged leakage, an issue that prompted then NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas to quit from his post.

Rojas denied Aquino's comments pushed him to resign, saying he had to take a break from work because the rigorous task of leading the country’s premier investigating arm has taken a serious toll on his health.

Lasala, who was replaced by NBI-Central Visayas director Antonio Pagatpat, declined to disclose the identities of Napoles’ connection in the NBI although he said one of the two officials is still with the agency.

The other official had already left the NBI.

Esmeralda and Lasala expressed willingness to unmask Napoles' alleged protectors at the Senate investigation into the scam if summoned.

They said Napoles met with the two officials in a five-star hotel and a restaurant before the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to file the serious illegal detention case with the Makati Regional Trial Court in August last year.

Napoles hid for two weeks prior to her surrender to Aquino on August 28, 2013. (Sunnex)

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