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Villanueva: Proving innocence in PDAF case more important than jurisdiction issue

Senator Joel Villanueva on Thursday welcomed the opinion of the Senate legal counsel that he cannot be ordered dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman but said he was more concerned in proving his innocence.

In a text message to reporters, Villanueva said his “identity was stolen to commit this fraud.”

“Whether I was indeed responsible for the illegal use of the PDAF for me on the moral level is important. I want my name cleared because I am not responsible for the illegal use of this fund,” he said.

“My identity was stolen to commit this fraud. They used fake signatures and letterheads. And this is an important issue. Because in this digital age, it is very easy to manufacture fake documents,” the neophyte senator added.

Villanueva stressed that he “did not commit any crime against the Filipino people.”

“I am a victim of identity theft and I am still hoping and praying Ombudsman sees that,” he said.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales in November ordered the dismissal from service of Villanueva after finding him guilty of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the interest of service over his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam as a party-list lawmaker.

Senate Legal Counsel Valentina Cruz, however, argued that the Ombudsman cannot order Villanueva’s dismissal from office, citing the Ombudsman Act of 1989.  

In the 15-page legal opinion, she said the law provides the Ombudsman disciplinary authority over all elective and appointive officials except impeachable officials, members of Congress, and of the judiciary.

The Senate legal counsel said the penalties imposed against Villanueva by the Ombudsman cannot and should not be implemented by the Senate and/or the Senate President.

"The Rules of the Senate require that there must first be a recommendation from the Committee on Ethics and Privileges for the suspension or expulsion of a Member of the Senate for disorderly behavior," the opinion said.

Villanueva said the legal opinion was a “positive development closer to justice” but he hopes the Ombudsman will look into the “glaring evidences” that he is innocent. — VVP, GMA News