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Ombudsman junks Chavit complaint vs Miriam

The Office of the Ombudsman has junked the complaint filed against Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago by Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, saying that it does not have jurisdiction over the lawmaker. "Sen. Santiago is a member of the Senate and is thus beyond the disciplinary authority of the Office of the Ombudsman. This Office cannot assume the power which exclusively belongs to another agency of the government," the Ombudsman said in its decision released Monday. Section 21 of Republic Act 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989 provides that "the Office of the Ombudsman shall have disciplinary authority over all elective and appointed officials of the government and its subdivisions... except officials who may be removed only by impeachment or over members of Congress, and the judiciary." In September last year, Singson filed a graft complaint against Santiago, saying she violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law when she identified him as a jueteng operator in a privilege speech at the Senate. "That he suffered undue injury as a result of the privilege speech cannot be invoked by Gov. Singson because of the parliamentary immunity given to the members of both Houses," said the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman likewise said that assuming it does have the power to sanction Santiago, "a deeper evaluation" of the complaint shows that it should still be dismissed outright for "want of palpable merit." This is the second time that the Office of the Ombudsman had dismissed a complaint filed against Santiago for implicating personalities in her privilege speech at the Senate. The first one was for her privilege speech against brothers Ronaldo and Rodolfo Puno regarding the alleged corruption in the Department of Interior and Local Government, which Ronaldo Puno headed under the Arroyo administration. Santiago, meanwhile, said she predicts that the complaint filed against Senate President Pro Tempore Estrada before the Ombudsman will likewise be dismissed because it is similar to her case. "You know parliamentary immunity is not meant to be abused by the senators and congressmen. It is meant to encourage them to speak the unspeakable without suffering the consequences. Otherwise we'd all be lying dead on the streets or our family would be assassinated," she said told reporters on Tuesday. Former Defense secretary Angelo Reyes had earlier filed criminal and administrative charges against Estrada and former military fund manager George Rabusa for implicating him in the alleged corrupt practices in the Armed Forces. He accused Estrada and Rabusa of causing "undue injury... through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence" under Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Incidentally, Reyes' lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan was also the lawyer for the complainants in the two cases filed against Santiago that were dismissed by the Ombudsman for lack of evidence. — Kimberly Jane Tan/RSJ/KBK, GMANews.TV