By LEONARD D. POSTRADO
January 24, 2012, 4:31pm
MANILA, Philippines — Lawyer Magtanggol Gatdula’s sudden removal from the top National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) post has nothing to do with his religious affiliation, Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Leila de Lima stressed Tuesday.
De Lima was reacting to earlier reports that Gatdula, who was sacked from his post last week for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Japanese national Noriyo Ohara, was the first casualty of a word war between President Aquino III and the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC, or Church of Christ) that stemmed from the latter’s support for Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In an interview with reporters, De Lima refuted such insinuations that Gatdula was taken out by President Aquino from the NBI due to his religious association with the INC and branded such report as mere “intrigues.”
“Politics or, for that matter, any other alleged hidden agenda, including Iglesia angle, had nothing to do with Gatdula’s dismissal. Sush suppositions, if at all, can only be intrigues,” Sec. De Lima said.
Taking the cudgels for the President, De Lima maintained that the decision to boot out Gatdula from the NBI was based on President Aquino’s appreciation of the results of the fact-finding investigation.
The DoJ fact-finding panel, in a report it released last week, held that Gatdula should be subjected to preliminary investigation for kidnapping and serious illegal detention in connection with the P6 million kidnap-for-ransom complaint filed Ohara.
In its report, the panel said based on the testimony of NBI special investigator Jose Odelon Cabillan, Gatdula “appears to have prior knowledge and participation as well as in its cover-up” in the operation to abduct and extort money from Ohara.
“It’s purely his [President] own judgment, as it is his own prerogative, to manifest any loss of confidence in any appointee,” De Lima explained.
No one among his appointees who is otherwise not protected by CESO [Career Executive Service Officer] rank/eligibility can insist on clinging to his or her position once the President expresses such loss of confidence,” she added.
On her reaction that Gatdula was not given a fair investigation, De Lima claimed that the dismissed former NBI director was lying when he claimed that he was not given a chance to defend himself before he was fired by President Aquino.