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DOJ: 'Inconsistencies' in extortion case led to Gatdula's sacking


(Updated 3:35 p.m.) "Inconsistencies" surrounding the alleged P6-million extortion of an undocumented Japanese national by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) led to the replacement of its director Magtanggol Gatdula.
 
This was confirmed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in an ambush interview with reporters at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila on Friday. The DOJ also stressed that Gatdula is a non-career executive service officer who served at the pleasure of the President.
 
De Lima said she would reveal Gatdula's replacement either within the day or by Tuesday next week. 
 
"May mga nakitang inconsistencies and self-contradictions sa mga sagot [ng mga inimbistegahan]," De Lima said. No more trust in Gatdula In Malacañang, President Benigno Aquino III admitted that he no longer trusts Gatdula.
“At the end of the day, the head of the principal agencies will be a person who has our trust and confidence. The trust is no longer there,” Aquino said in an interview after the ceremonial switch-on of the household electrification program in Malacañang. 
Noriyo Ohara, who arrived in the Philippines in 2009 and assumed a Filipino identity, was reportedly "arrested" by NBI agents in Pangasinan on Oct. 29, 2011.
 
In exchange for her freedom, NBI agents allegedly demanded P15 million from the foster family that took care of the 33-year-old Ohara during her stay in the Philippines.
 
A DOJ fact-finding panel earlier completed its investigation into the matter and recommended charges against several NBI agents.The report has been forwarded to Aquino last week.
 
It was later found out that the NBI agents who "arrested" Ohara were non-organic personnel of the agency who are called "security volunteers."
 
De Lima said among the "inconsistencies" that the investigating panel was Gatdula's claim in November that he has never seen Ohara before.
 
It turned out, however, that several individuals including former NBI security management division chief Mario Garcia claimed that Gatdula indeed saw Ohara when she was taken into NBI custody. Garcia, who reportedly led the arrest of Ohara, was eventually dismissed from office.
 
"May several people na nagsabi na he [Gatdula] was their noong October 29 noong nandoon si Ms Ohara noong kakakuha pa lang sa kanya sa Bugallon, Pangasinan... Although may expalanation siya na he was just on a routine inspection," De Lima said.
 
"[But that is] the first contradiction... why did he deny?" she added. Insubordination
For his part, Aquino believed Gatdula committed insubordination.
“She’s (Ohara) a foreigner ‘no. Para bang kung ang main issue muna ay illegal entry then the proper venue (would be) the Bureau of Immigration,” the President said.
 
“May orders to transfer the person to the Bureau of Immigration that was not carried out. That to me is insubordination,” he noted. Both the NBI and the Bureau of Immigration are attached agencies of the DOJ. 
 
The DOJ said the probe panel discovered "disturbing allegations and facts regarding the actions, inactions, and reactions of Director Gatdula."
 
The Justice chief said instead of holding on to Ohara, Gatdula should have ordered for the Japanese national's custody transfer to the Bureau of Immigration since she was undocumented.
 
She also slammed Gatdula for letting NBI agents extort money from the Marzan family, who had been sheltering Ohara during her stay in the Philippines, instead of just filing appropriate charges against them.
 
The DOJ said even if Gatdula has been removed from the NBI, he could still face criminal and administrative charges.
 
Gatdula earlier went on leave, but Malacañang, in a one-page letter signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr, issued on Thursday a termination order against Gatdula, ending his 18-month leadership at NBI.
 
"This is to inform you that your appointment as Director of the NBI is hereby terminated effective this date," the order read.
 
Gatdula, former Quezon City police director, was appointed as NBI chief in July last year. Reports earlier claimed that his appointment was backed by the Iglesia ni Cristo, of which he is a member and which endorsed Aquino in the May elections. — VVP/RSJ, GMA News
 
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