DOJ official, 2 others tapped for PDAF cases

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Friday, July 25, 2014

A RANKING official of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and two prosecutors will assist the Office of the Ombudsman in fighting for conviction of personalities charged with plunder and graft in relation to the pork barrel scam.

They are Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena-Valdez and State Counsel Aaron Jarveen Ho, who were personally chosen by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

"In the interest of service, pursuant to the provisions of existing laws and to the request of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales in her 10 July 2014 letter, Undersecretary Justiniano, Decena-Valdez, and Ho are hereby partially detailed to the Office of the Ombudsman," Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in Department Order 486 dated July 14.

For the meantime, de Lima said Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar will handle the petition for review cases pending before Justiniano's desk while Valdez and Ho "shall be excused from some of their current assignments."

In her letter, Morales cited the three lawyers' "extensive" trial experience that would be "invaluable to the successful prosecution" of cases against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., businesswoman Janet Napoles and their co-accused.

Justiniano is the official in charge of the investigation and case build up against those allegedly involved in the misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

He was a volunteer lawyer for the House of Representatives' prosecution team in the impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

Valdez, meanwhile, handled high-profile cases including the mauling of actor-television host Vhong Navarro by the group of businessman Cedric Lee last January 22.

The DOJ's help came after the Sandiganbayan justices scolded the prosecution late last month for its attempt to amend the information, which would have painted Enrile, Revilla and Estrada as the mastermind of the scam and not Napoles, who allegedly gave kickbacks to these lawmakers for choosing her fake foundations as recipients of public funds.

But Morales said that the move to amend the charges was only for the form and had nothing to do with the substance. (Sunnex)

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