Ex-Arroyo lawyer Batacan faces charges for alleging corruption in Ombudsman
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – When veteran defense lawyer Edna Batacan faced the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) in June to apply for the post of Ombudsman, she admitted to paying illegal fees – inviting corruption and obstruction complaints against her.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires, Batacan’s co-applicant at the time, filed the complaints before the Quezon City Prosecutor on Tuesday, November 20.
Batacan had told the JBC that as a defense lawyer, she had paid P50,000 just to get the status of her client’s case at the Office of the Ombudsman.
She also repeatedly called the Office of the Ombudsman a “graft-ridden” office, and exposed what was called a “parking fee” scheme. In that scheme, investigators allegedly charge a fee to "park" some cases so they are later dismissed due to delay.
In the complaint affidavit filed by Martires, the Office of the Ombudsman accuses Batacan of violating Article 212 of the Revised Penal Code or Corruption of Public Officials. Article 212 punishes private persons who make offers or promises, or give gifts to public officials.
Martires also said that by issuing the statements, Batacan “cast aspersion on the integrity of the Office of the Ombudsman,” which the complaint said, was a violation of Secton 36 of the Ombudsman law which punishes any person who “willfully obstructs or hinders the proper exercise of the functions” of the office.
Martires subpoenaed Batacan immediately after assuming the Ombudsman post, but according to the complaint, “Batacan failed to appear.”
“Instead, she sent a letter denying that she stated during her JBC interview that she gave P50,000 to an official of the Office of the Ombudsman in order to get the status of the case,” said the complaint.
During the JBC interview, Batacan told JBC member and retired Justice Jose Mendoza that "para lang po ma-verify mo ang status ng kaso you have to spend 50,000 just to get the status of the case (just to verify the status of your case, you have to spend P50,000)."
Asked by Mendoza if she has personally experienced it, Batacan said: "Yes your honor I have personal experience on that."
When Mendoza called her out on it saying it violates rules, Batacan said: "You have to please your client. Hindi nga po rules 'yun, but you have to give in to your clients. Sabi nila tumugtog ka ng tugtog nila. Eh di tumugtog ka, para matapos lang 'yung mga [kaso ng mga] kliyente.”
(You have to please your client. Those are not the rules, but you have to give in to your clients. They said you have to play the same music they play. You have to do that, just to put an end to your clients' cases.)
Interviewed at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday, November 21, Batacan said she stands by what she said at the JBC.
"Totoo naman talaga 'yun (it's really true)," she said.
Before retiring, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had downplayed the parking fee issue, saying that no one had ever come forward with concrete evidence.
“The deliberate refusal of Atty Batacan to cooperate with, and provide sufficient details to this Office impedes the proper exercise of its function to investigate the corruption committed,” said the complaint.
Batacan said she doesn't recognize the Ombudsman jurisdiction to question her, on top of the fact that she got sick on some of the schedules.
"Nire-require ako na umappear sa low-ranking na direktor, bakit ako aappear dun eh wala naman kayong jurisdiction sa akin (I was required to appear before a low-ranking director, why would I appear when they don't have jurisdiction over me)," Batacan said.
Batacan had served as a lawyer to high profile personalities like former first gentleman Mike Arroyo, President Rodrigo Duterte, and businesswoman Janet Napoles. – Rappler.com