MANILA, Philippines - A ranking official of the Office of the Ombudsman who handled the criminal charges against the dismissed policeman who took a busload of tourists from Hong Kong hostage last Aug. 23 has denied allegations of extortion.
Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales denied insinuations that he demanded P150,000 from former police senior inspector Rolando Mendoza in exchange for dropping the robbery-extortion charges filed against him by a chef in 2008.
If money was exchanged, it didn’t work; Mendoza was found guilty by the Ombudsman and dismissed from the service.
“Hindi totoo yun (That’s not true). I can swear on my father’s grave who died last July, on my sister’s grave, I did not ask anything from him (Mendoza) whom I did not see personally. I am not that kind of person that benefits from a case,” Gonzales, the deputy Ombudsman for the military and other law enforcement offices, said.
Gonzales said people who know him can attest to the fact that he is not the kind of person who would make money out of a case pending before his office.
The deputy Ombudsman said he would hold a press conference today to formally deny the allegations, which surfaced the other day at the marathon hearing being conducted by the incident investigation and review committee (IIRC) on the Aug. 23 hostage-taking incident.
Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) president Herman Basbano revealed before the panel led by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that Mendoza hurled invectives at Gonzales while they were talking on the phone.
Basbano added the information was also reflected in the affidavit of two police officials who acted as negotiators during the hostage crisis.
Basbano pointed to the sworn statement of hostage negotiator Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador, who said he overheard Mendoza talking to Gonzales over the phone.
“P… mo… humihingi ka pa ng P150,000 para sa kaso ko. Kapag may namatay dito, ikaw ang sisisihin dito (How dare you ask P150,000 for my case. If somebody dies here, it will be your fault),” Salvador stated in his affidavit, quoting Mendoza.
Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno also said that when he was at the Office of the Ombudsman to check on Mendoza’s case, he saw Gonzales talking with Mendoza on the phone.
Moreno though told the panel that he could not hear what they were discussing.
Moreno had sought an audience with Ombudsman officials to discuss Mendoza’s case in an effort to resolve the hostage crisis.
Mendoza had demanded his reinstatement to the police force, maintaining his dismissal from the service was illegal.
Before the hostage crisis took a turn for worse, police negotiators allowed Mendoza to speak with officials of the Ombudsman on the assumption that an arrangement could be made on his case.
Moreno, who acted as vice chairman of the local crisis committee during the hostage crisis, told the IIRC panel that Mendoza became distraught after learning that the Ombudsman merely assured the hostage taker that his case would be reviewed.
Moreno said Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez gave him a sealed letter with specific instructions to deliver it to Mendoza.
He said Gutierrez even requested to have a picture taken with him, but clarified the Ombudsman wanted the picture as proof that the letter handed to him came from her.
Moreno said it took him about three hours to travel back and forth from the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City due to heavy traffic and rain. It took him another hour to talk to Gutierrez and her deputies.
Moreno said Gutierrez and other officials were able to talk to Mendoza over the phone and tried to calm the hostage-taker by promising to review his case.
Moreno said he did not know what was being discussed over the phone and he failed to ask the Ombudsman what they discussed with Mendoza.
Moreno said what could have angered Mendoza was the letter given to him by the Ombudsman that only assured him that his case would be reviewed. Mendoza wanted a full reinstatement with a clean slate in the police force.