MANILA — A Quezon City prosecutor was arrested today Nov. 14 after he demanded P80,000 ( $1,700) for the dismissal of the case filed against one of the “Morong 43? by a former military chaplain.
Members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) nabbed Raul Desembrana, assistant prosecutor of the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office, in an entrapment operation at 11:30 a.m. at the Serye restaurant in the Quezon City Memorial Circle, where he tried to extort money from Ephraim Cortez, a lawyer of Dr. Alex Montes, one of the so-called Morong 43.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, whose members are handling Dr. Montes’ case, said in a statement that Desembrana unilaterally contacted one of Dr. Montes’ lawyer, who they did not identify, and asked for his “SOP,” a payment of P80,000, in exchange for the dismissal of the case.
Desembrana also asked the lawyer to draft the resolution of the dismissal, which was to be handed to him on the delivery of the said SOP.
The entrapment operation was conducted by members of the National Bureau of Investigation through the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“This goes to show that we do not buy our way and neither can we be bought,” Cortez, co-counsel for Dr. Montes, told the media after Desembrana’s arrest.
Cortez said Desembrana would be brought to the NBI office for inquest and would be charged with extortion and violation of anti-corrupt and graft practices law. He may also be suspended from the Quezon City prosecutor’s office.
Desembrana is currently detained at the NBI.
The “Morong 43? refers to the 43 community health workers arrested in 2010 in Morong, Rizal. They were accused as members of the New People’s Army, and detained based on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Dr. Montes, along with son Conner, were charged with unjust vexation, grave coercion and threat by retired colonel Reuben Espartinez, former chaplain of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Espartinez, a delisted pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, claimed in his affidavit that Dr. Montes cursed him while attending a mass on Jan. 8 this year.
Dr. Montes had said that it was Espartinez who had harassed him and his family, as the former military chaplain had gone out of his way to annoy him, calling him “a communist” and the “chairperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” and sending letters to his family enclosed with money.
Human rights groups called it a continuing harassment against Dr. Montes.
Cortez said they have decided to pursue the entrapment because it would be easier to prove their allegations as the prosecutor would be caught red-handed receiving the money.
Dr. Montes, after a consultation with the NUPL, agreed to do the entrapment.
Dr. Montes’ lawyer told Desembrana to give the doctor ample time to raise the money. But the prosecutor, said the NUPL, followed up on the matter and even contacted Dr. Montes through his home landline.
“We cannot just look the other way and simply ignore the brazenness by which Prosecutor Desembrano tried to extort from our client, which indicate how audacious he was to fantasize that he can get away with his criminal act,” Edre Olalia, secretary general of the NUPL, said a statement.
Olalia said that Desembrano must have victimized many others as he has been in service for some time.
“This routine bilking mirrors the endemic epidemic of corruption that pervades the Philippine bureaucracy where money talks, from legislators to high officials, to generals, judges, and secretaries,” he added.
Olalia said the entrapment may be a risk of reprisal to its legal practice and advocacy, “even brickbats from colleagues who want to play along with the system.”
But Olalia said they will not allow “to be infected with this epidemic of corruption that further gnaws at our floundering hopes and aggravates the frustration of the people who have little fighting chance to beat the system.”
The NUPL said many cases have been resolved or not decided according to its merits but because of bribery, threats, intimidation or undue influence.
In the case of the Morong 43, for one, Olalia said, it is the “same vulnerability” that pressured a judge to issue a search warrant on a training of community health workers.
“This paints a grim picture on what the poor and ordinary people expect from our legal and judicial system that props up inequality and inequity, with a process that is tedious, cumbersome, and inaccessible to the poor,” Olalia said.
[quote font=”0″ arrow=”yes”]Guest Author: JANESS ANN J. ELLAO[/quote]
NBI agents arrest QC prosecutor for alleged extortion case (Contributed photo)