Ombudsman clears De Lima of charges of financial terrorism, violation of anti-graft law » Manila Bulletin News

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Ombudsman clears De Lima of charges of financial terrorism, violation of anti-graft law

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By Ben Rosario

The Office of the Ombudsman has cleared Senator Leila de Lima of charges of financing terrorism and violation of the anti-graft law that graft investigators found to be based on hearsay.

In a joint resolution, the Ombudsman also junked administrative charges of grave misconduct, dishonesty, neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against De Lima, currently detained on drug charges.

Also cleared in the nine-page resolution written by graft investigation and prosecution officer Rolando Manjares were former Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, Mehol K. Sadain and Edilwasif Baddiri, former chairman and commissioner of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and private respondent Wendel F. Sotto, Tan’s lawyer.

Senator Leila de Lima (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Leila de Lima (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved the resolution recommending the dismissal of the cases.

De Lima and her co-respondents were charged with “knowingly and directly” aiding and financing the release of high value Abu Sayyaf terrorists Mohammad Sali Said; Jul Ahmad Ahadi and Robin Sahiyal from the Special Intensive Care area of Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City on February 15, 2013.

The complaints were filed before the Ombudsman by Temogen Tulawie and Abner Salahi Tahil who claimed that the alleged ASG members were freed in exchange of their testimony to pin down Tulawie to a criminal case that was then pending before the Regional Trial Court Branch 19 in Manila.

In the complaint, Tahil claimed he personally “witnessed how respondents entered into shadowy dealings with the “ASG” to frame Tulawie.

Tahil claimed being privy to the conversations of the ASG inmates at Camp Bagong Diwa, saying that it was inmate Mujibar Bong Among who told him of Tan’s offer of freedom to ASG men but with the condition that they will help prosecute Tulawie.

Tulawie and Tahil accused De Lima of releasing Said from jail and of placing him under the Witness Protection Program that granted him financial assistance, shelter and security.

According to the complainants, Tan and Sotto connived with Sadain and Baddiri in placing the names of the ASG terrorists in the NCMF list of Muslim Filipinos wrongly arrested due to mistaken identity.

De Lima called for the immediate dismissal of the complaint, pointing out that the accusations were unverified “thus a mere scrap of paper.

The former justice secretary argued that Tahil’s claim of personal knowledge of the alleged shadowy dealings between Tan and the alleged ASG men is “hearsay” because the complainant did not personally witness offer allegedly given by Tan.

She also pointed out that not one of the alleged ASG members have been convicted, adding that neither was there any evidence to link Sahiyal and Ahadi as ASG members.

In resolving the issue, the Ombudsman noted that there were no records showing that complainants and respondents have ever met.

“There is no truth, therefore to complainants’ allegation that Tahil personally witnessed how resondents entered into shadowy dealings with Abu Sayyaf Group,” the resolution stated.

It added: “As Tahil has no personal knowledge as to respondents’ alleged dealings with the alleged ASG members, he is not qualified or competent to testify.”

According to Ombudsman probers, hearsay evidence “is frowned upon by the court of law and is not countenanced by the Rules of Court.”

“In a nutshell, complainants; allegations are devoid of evidence, Without evidence, allegations are just empty words,” the anti-graft body stressed.

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