Ombudsman Forms Team to Probe Incident in Iloilo

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Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez yesterday ordered the creation of a task force that will investigate the manner by which her order dismissing Iloilo Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. was carried out.

The People's Graftwatch Movement of Iloilo filed the graft case against Tupas for alleged irregular approval of the release of R85,000 for the Community Direct Action Project (CDAP) as financial assistance for alleged non-existent training programs and seminars for the Provincial Board Members' League of the Philippines.

Media reports said hundreds of policemen raided the Iloilo Provincial Capitol, smashing and destroying padlocked doors to unseat the governor after the 48-hour deadline set by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for dismissed and suspended officials to leave their respective offices lapsed.

Reports said police withdrew from the office building after Tupas received a copy of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Court of Appeals in Cebu City.

In a letter to Sen. Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs, Gutierrez said: "I have already issued an office order directing an Ombudsman task force to conduct an investigation-public hearing into the manner by which the implementation was done, in order to determine if any public officer should be answerable to the law."

The letter was sent to the Senate in response to the invitation for the Ombudsman to appear in a public hearing seeking to clarify the alleged "violent" implementation of the dismissal order.

In her letter, Gutierrez explained that "our office had nothing to do with the implementation of our decision."

She added that "the claim of arbitrary execution of the decision is, based on best information available to us, included in the current petition filed by Gov. Tupas questioning our decision, and as such is circumscribed by the sub judice rule."

Gutierrez expressed her regrets for not being able to attend the public hearing.

Iloilo officials: 'Excessive force' used by regional police


Contrary to Philippine National Police (PNP) reports, Iloilo provincial officials told two Senate committees yesterday that there was definitely "excessive force" used by the assault force of the Iloilo regional police in attempting to force Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. out of the barricaded Iloilo Capitol Building last Jan. 17.

Despite this, lawyer Wilfredo V. Dulay Sr., PNP Region 6 director, recommended "appropriate awards for all tasked personnel for carrying successfully the lawful order of higher PNP authority," referring to 65 members of the assault group and 182 members of the crowd dispersal unit involved in the Iloilo capitol siege.

In a related development, top government officials headed by Ombudsman Merceditas N. Gutierrez, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno refused or failed to appear before the Senate Public Order and Illegal Drugs Committee, led by Sen. Franklin M. Drilon, and the Senate Committee on Local Government headed by Sen. Alfredo S. …