NBI director Gatdula sacked over kidnapping raps
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MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE, 2:07 p.m.) National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Magtanggol Gatdula will be removed from his post, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday, after an investigating panel implicated him and other NBI agents in the kidnapping and extortion attempt against a Japanese national last year.
"I can confirm that Director Magtanggol Gatdula will be replaced but as to his replacement it's still being studied by the President," de Lima told reporters in an interview during the 59th anniversary of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
Gatdula was sacked in connection with the alleged kidnap and extortion of a 32-year-old Japanese woman, Noriyo Ohara, in October 2011.
A DoJ panel headed by Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III recommended the filing of charges against Gatdula and several others who were implicated in the alleged kidnapping and extortion of Ohara.
Aside from Gatdula, the DoJ also recommended charges be filed against NBI assistant director Medardo de Lemos, deputy director Rickson Chiong, security and management division head Mario Garcia and his executive officer Jose Cabillan.
De Lima said Gatdula, his staff, and other NBI agents were complicit in "a crimnal act under the guise of a rescue operation and also an arrest."
"There are recommendations with respect to the filing of administrative and criminal charges against certain NBI officials and personnel and other private individuals in connection with the kidnapping with ransom and the abduction with extortion of a Japanese lady national. On a presidential directive, the DOJ has investigated that particular incident and marathon hearings were conducted by the panel," de Lima said.
De Lima said a shortlist of names to replace Gatdula has been submitted to the President but would not disclose the names on the list.
Ohara entered the country with a red Philippine passport (a red passport is normally issued to officials of the Philippine government) in 2009 where she was subsequently brought by an immigration official to Bugallon, Pangasinan to the Marzan family.
According to the family, Ohara fled Japan to escape the Yakuza, who killed her father.
On October 29, 2011, an NBI team raided the Marzan home in Pangasinan and took Ohara, who voluntarily went with the agents. But the Marzans claimed the NBI Security Management Division (SMD) Chief Mario Garcia extorted money from Ohara amounting to P6 million.
Following this allegation, Gatdula relieved Garcia and SMD executive director Jose Odelon Cabillan pending investigation. Gatdula also went on leave last December 15, 2011.
Justice Secretary De Lima ordered an investigation into the matter. A DOJ panel was formed to determine whether NBI-Security Management Division (SMD) Chief Mario Garcia, NBI-SMD Executive Officer Jose Odellon Cabillan and two others had something to do with the case of Noriyo Ohara, also known as Marife Laganas.
The panel was composed of DOJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III as chairman, Assistant Secretary Zabedin Azis as vice chairman, and City Prosecutor Donald Lee as member.
According to Ohara's foster family, NBI agents asked for P15 million in exchange for the release of the Japanese national, who was held by the bureau last October 29. Her family also claimed that Ohara was threatened with deportation, pending the payment of ransom.
Of the P15 million allegedly sought by the NBI operatives, Ohara's camp paid a total of P6 million on October 29, and November 2 and 9, according to De Lima.
The DOJ panel was also asked to determine why the NBI-SMD involved itself in a police operation, who authorized it, and why was there no action against Garcia for acting outside his jurisdication.
The panel also sought to understand why the victim was placed under the custody of the NBI instead of the Bureau of Immigration and if the operation was really a "rescue" operation from Ohara’s kidnappers.
De Lima said Garcia and Cabillan were relieved of their duties.
Ohara was eventually placed under the custody of the Bureau of Immigration.
President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the Department of Justice to start scouting for a replacement for fired National Bureau of Investigation director Magtanggol Gatdula.
Aquino also ordered the DoJ to release to the public the panel report on Gatdula’s alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Japanese national Noriyo Ohara last year.
“The President has received the recommendation of the panel. He has reviewed the report and he has agreed with the recommendation,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said. Valte said Justice chief Leila de Lima will be designating an officer-in-charge soon until Gatdula’s replacement has been chosen.