THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has found prima facie evidence to warrant the investigation of three Pasay City state prosecutors for possible administrative liabilities for ordering the release of three persons who were arrested for trying to smuggle into the country some P6 million worth of jewelry at the Ninony Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3 on May 5.
Facing formal investigation for neglect of duty, gross incompetence and inefficiency are Prosecutor Benjamin Alonto, officer in charge of the Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office; State Prosecutor Florencio de la Cruz Jr., inquest prosecutor; and Associate Prosecution Attorney Clementine Villanueva.
In a two-page formal charge signed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, the justice department directed the three prosecutors to answer the charges and submit the respective affidavits of their witness within 10 days.
“Otherwise, failure to submit the same shall be deemed as a waiver of your right to be heard, and this department, through the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) of the National Prosecution Service, shall make a recommendation on this case on the basis of evidence on record,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra also asked the prosecutors to indicate in their answers whether they would prefer a formal hearing of their case.
Guevarra has also placed the prosecutors under a 60-day preventive suspension pending the result of the investigation.
The case was forwarded to the IAU for investigation and submission of its recommendation.
The DOJ ordered the investigation of the three prosecutors following the release of three suspected smugglers of jewelry despite supposed strong evidence against them.
It can be recalled that on May 5, 2018, a closed-circuit television camera stationed at the Naia caught an exchange between an unidentified man and Naia Customs Officer V Lomontod Macabando of a bag containing at least P6 million worth of assorted gold jewelry.
While attempting to flee the scene with the bag, Macabando was intercepted by Bureau of Customs personnel and airport security guards.
It was later confirmed that the bag contained 1.9 kilo grams of undeclared pieces of jewelry.
On the same day, spouses Abraham and Bang-sa Mimbalawang arrived at Naia Terminal 3 aboard Cebu Pacific Air from Dubai.
The couple admitted to the authorities of their ownership of the bag subject of the exchange.
Macabando and the Mimbalawangs were arrested and subjected to inquest proceedings on May 6 at the Office of the City Prosecutor.
However, Gueverra said the suspects were ordered released by the said prosecutors following the inquest proceedings “despite the evidence at hand.”
Meanwhile, Guevara has designated Deputy City Prosecutor Dolores Pulgo-Rillera as officer in charge of the Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office.