Manila, Feb. 19, 2003 -- State lawyers yesterday urged the Court of Appeals (CA) to dismiss “for lack of merit” the suit filed by former Justice Secretary Hernando Perez urging the court to stop the ongoing investigation of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) for alleged abuse of power during his term. In a 33-page comment, Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo said “there is prima facie evidence” held by the PAGC to warrant the initiation of administrative proceedings against Perez.

“Clearly, petitioner's (Perez) issuance of the memorandum to (Bureau of Immigration) Commissioner (Andrea) Domingo can be the subject of an administrative investigation of respondent PAGC, where he can actively take part to justify the reasons for its issuance,” Benipayo said in the document submitted to the CA .

He urged the CA to lift its temporary restraining order (TRO) on the PAGC and deny Perez's plea for a permanent injunction “for lack of factual and legal bases.”

Benipayo described “absurd” Perez's argument that the PAGC, being under the Office of President, cannot investigate matters of issuances by a Cabinet secretary since the latter is an alter ego of the Chief Executive.

“This argument is absurd. PAGC was created specifically to investigate and hear administraive cases and complaints against personnel in the Executive department,” Benipayo said.

In a two-page resolution dated Feb. 3, 2003, the CA 8th Division, through Associate Justice Elvi John Asuncion, granted a TRO in favor of Perez and ordered the PAGC against continuing with its investigation.

The TRO, also signed by the 8th Division chairman Conrado Vasquez Jr. and Associate Justice Sergio Pestaño, said it “was not necessarily giving due course” on the suit filed by Perez's lawyers last Jan. 20.

The former Justice chief filed the suit against Rama, claiming the PAGC chairman had initiated the investigation against him without a complainant.

Rama's team is looking into Perez's possible liability under the law as a public official, for allegedly ordering Domingo not to divulge travel records of administration officials, including Perez's itinerary particularly at the time he allegedly received $2 million in bribes from extradited Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez in Hong Kong.

Perez had questioned before the CA four orders issued by Rama, starting with the PAGC ruling last Dec. 17 where the agency found “sufficient basis to commence an administrative investigation” against the then DoJ secretary and which required the latter to file a counter affidavit within 10 days.

Perez was supposed to return to office on the same date after a month-long voluntary leave of absence. He took the leave supposedly to pursue slander charges against Bulacan Rep. Wilfrido Villarama and Jimenez.

A “motion to disqualify” filed by Perez before the PAGC was subsequently turned down by the Palace body last Jan. 7, along with the motion for reconsideration. Last week, threats and name-calling were in abundance during the hearing of an administrative case filed by the PAGC against Perez.

What rocked the august halls of the CA, however, was Perez's threat against Rama, whom the former Malacañang official claimed “will be out of office soon.”

Although tempers flared during the hearing, Rama took everything in stride and even approached Perez to make amends.

“I don't want to shake your hand. Your hand is tainted,” Perez said after Rama offered his conciliatory hand. “You're a misguided missile. You persecuted me.”

“I'm just doing my job,” Rama offered.

And that was when the fired-up Perez aired his threat: “You'll be out of office soon,” his burning eyes directed against Rama.( By Benjamin B. Pulta, Tribune)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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