Lead prosecutor in Bong Revilla plunder leaves Ombudsman to be judge
MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman loses a high-value prosecutor as Joefferson Toribio, its lead prosecutor in the Bong Revilla plunder case, leaves his job to be a judge at the Tarlac City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Toribio is among the 13 new judges appointed to RTCs in Central Luzon by President Rodrigo Duterte. Their appointment papers were released by Malacañang on Monday, November 20.
“It is a career advancement,” Toribio told Rappler on Monday.
Toribio leaves in the middle of trial and at a time when Revilla’s legal team – reinforced this year by the veteran Estelito Mendoza – prepares to file a motion for leave to file a demurrer of evidence, or a move for an outright dismissal of his case. (READ: How Revilla's team is defending him in his plunder trial)
Mendoza said they are very confident of their case, so much so that they opted for a demurrer rather than a motion for bail which could give temporary freedom to Revilla sooner. Anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has earlier granted bail to another plunder defendant, former senator Jinggoy Estrada.
“I am confident of their competence and dedication as the prosecutors handling the case,” Toribio said of the team he leaves behind.
Rumors of Toribio’s application for a judgeship have been known for a while now, and so was the issue that the Office may be losing more prosecutors.
"We have no complete manpower. It's difficult to hire lawyers because we're very strict. I'd rather have 10 lawyers who are competent than 100 lawyers who are inefficient and lazy," Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said back in April.
As it stands, the Ombudsman's Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) only has less than 200 lawyers working on a load of approximately 8,000 cases, per the data of the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Office has a plantilla of 2,100 lawyer and non-lawyer positions. Only 1,300 are filled up. This can be attributed to a "lack of retirement package," according to a source from the Office.
On Monday, the House of Representatives passed on 3rd reading House Bill 6578 which provides for an augmented retirement benefits for Ombudsman employees.
The Ombudsman also loses prosecutors Rohermia Jamsani-Rodriguez, who was apppointed judge to the San Fernando City, Pampanga RTC and Maribel Mariano-Beltran, who will be judge at the Iba, Zambales RTC.
Rodriguez was the prosecutor who accused former Sandiganbayan justice Gregory Ong and other justices of improper conduct when they heard cases at the same time. The Supreme Court (SC) sanctioned Ong in 2011 over the mishandling of trial.
Ong was eventually dismissed by the SC for gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety over his links to Janet Lim-Napoles.
Other appointees to RTCs are:
- Francisco Beley (Malolos City, Bulacan RTC)
- Ma. Cristina Geronimo Juanson (San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan RTC)
- April Anne Turqueza-Pabellar (Sta. Maria, Bulacan RTC)
- Emelita Dela Cruz Miranda-Portillo (Palayan City, Nueva Ecija RTC)
- Ma. Theresa Opiana Basilio (Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija RTC)
- Katrina Nora Buan-Factora (Angeles City, Pampanga RTC)
- Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio (Olongapo City, Zambales RTC)
- Ma. Teresa Pagtalunan Mauleon (Mariveles, Bataan RTC)
- Dorina Castro-Baltazar (Balanga City, Bataan RTC)
- Alejandria Javier-Genota (Baler, Aurora RTC)
– With a report from Bea Cupin/Rappler.com