Estrada camp seeks Justiniano’s disqualification

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

THE camp of detained Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada asked the Sandiganbayan on Tuesday to disqualify Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano from being part of the government prosecution team, which handles the graft and plunder charges against the senator.

Jose Flaminiano, Estrada's lead counsel, said the appearance of Justiniano is not permitted under Article 7, Section 13 of the Constitution, which prohibits Cabinet officials and their undersecretaries from holding another office or employment during their tenure.

"Since Undersecretary Justiniano is an undersecretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ), there is no doubt that he is covered by this constitutional prohibition," Flamiano said.

The lawyer added that being under the Executive branch and the President, the petition cannot be placed under the control and supervision the Special Prosecutor, which is required by his deputization as collaborating counsel.

Justiniano has been appearing as a member of the prosecution panel in all plunder and graft cases filed against prominent personalities, including three senators, concerning alleged misuse of the multi-billion peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

In addition, the defense lawyer said Justiniano's continued appearance as a member of the prosecution team would be a violation of the Civil Service Law.

"Under the Civil Service Law, no person in the non-career service shall perform the duties properly belonging to any position in the career service," Flaminiano said.

The Estrada camp invoked the pronouncements of the Sandiganbayan Special Division in a resolution issued on March 25, 2002 in the plunder case of former President Joseph Estrada that overruled the inclusion of then Social Welfare undersecretary Dennis Villa-Ignacio and Health undersecretary Alexander Padilla as prosecutors.

In the said ruling, the graft court held that the "deputization, designation and/or appointment is ...improper and inappropriate because it runs counter to Section 13 Article 7 of the Constitution."

Flaminiano noted that because of the mentioned ruling, Padilla left the prosecution panel while Villa-Ignacio was able to continue after he was appointed as Special Prosecutor by then President Gloria Arroyo to replace the retired Special Prosecutor Leonardo Tamayo. (Sunnex)

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