By Benjamin B. Pulta
The Daily Tribune
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has decided to investigate one of the agency’s highest ranking prosecutors after the latter’s staff was nabbed in an entrapment operation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last week for extorting P250,000 from a litigant.
Speaking to reporters, De Lima said she is ordering the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) to investigate Senior Deputy State Prosecutor (SDSP) Severino Gaña.
Gaña’s chief of staff, Mutya Santiago-Tobes is out on a P100,000 bail after she was caught in a sting operation by the NBI inside the DoJ compound while in the act of extorting money from the litigant.
De Lima said charges are being readied against Tobes’ alleged accomplice, a certain Louie, who was the person persistently doing the follow-ups on Nuriza Abeja, the litigant.
The Tribune learned that Louie was a staff under another senior prosecutor and is the brother of the wife of former Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño.
Santiago-Tobe reportedly threatened the litigant, beauty queen and socialite Abeja that the adultery case filed by the litigant’s husband will be filed in court if she refuses to pay the sum.
Santiago has already been charged with robbery-extortion before the Manila Prosecutor’s Office.
De Lima was irked at the extortion practice at the DoJ.
“Right here in the DoJ building? I was furious upon learning that. If I need to do the entrapment myself for others, I will do that,” De Lima was said to have fumed.
However, it was not she who had ordered the NBI for the entrapment operation on the extrortion try by one of her prosecutorial offices. NBI did it on its own.
“There may be charges also filed with the boss of the employee (Tobes), an SDSP. He (Gaña) will be suspended. if warranted. So my instructions to (prosecutor general) is to begin the process for the Internal Affairs Unit to investigate that SDSP,” she added.
Gaña has denied he is involved in the extortion of Abeja and stressed that he does not tolerate any wrongdoing of his staff and appealed to everyone “to let the wheels of justice take its regular course to prove the guilt or innocence of Ms. Santiago.”
“Ms. Santiago has been my staff for the past 12 years at the DoJ and, to my knowledge, she has never been involved in any anomaly in the performance of her duties. I would like to assure the public that I will not tolerate any wrongdoing of my staff, if there is indeed truth to that matter,” Gaña said in an e-mail sent to reporters.
Last Aug. 31, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) nabbed Tobes in an entrapment operation following the complaint of Abeja that the suspect allegedly asked her money in exchange for the assured dismissal of the adultery case filed by the litigant’s husband.
The case against Tobes, who was released from prison after posting a P100,000 bail bond, was filed before the sala of Manila Regional Trial Court branch 54 Judge Maria Paz Reyes-Yzon.
Tobes told her that there was already a draft resolution affirming the decision of the Makati RTC to dismiss her adultery case but the DoJ staff quickly threatened her that such decision will be reversed if she will not pay her.
She said Tobes initially demanded P300,000 from her but the payment was reduced to P250,000 after the victim haggled with the price.