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Ombudsman Clears BSP Lawyers

07.16.2001

The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the administrative charges for Misconduct and Neglect of Duty filed by three employees of failed Urban Bank against Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas lawyers who had charged them with estafa and falsification of commercial documents before the Department of Justice.

In a 15-page Decision, graft investigator Celso R. Dao said that for lack of substantial evidence, BSP General Counsel Juan de Zuniga, Jr., Special Investigator Director Vicente S. Aquino and lawyers Norberto Capistrano and Rusell Gerona, are exonerated and the complaints filed by Urban Bank employees Rene Colin Gray, Besilda Pinto and Marie Cecille Lopez against them are dismissed.

BSP General Counsel de Zuniga and Special Investigation Director Aquino were charged with Neglect of Duty for allegedly failing to act promptly on the request of Atty. Bayani Loste of Fortun, Narvasa and Salazar, complainants' counsel, to take action against their subordinates Capistrano and Gerona, who were charged with Misconduct for allegedly forcing the complainants to sign affidavits which contradicted their narration of events related to the closure of the bank on April 26, 2000.

"On the part of respondents de Zuniga and Aquino, both could not be charged with neglect of duty as de Zuniga has taken diligent action on the letter of Fortun, Narvasa and Salazar requesting for the investigation of respondents Capistrano and Gerona.  In fact, he advised the law firm that they would be accordingly informed of the investigation of Capistrano and Gerona whom de Zuniga required to submit their answers.  On the other hand, as Director of the Office of Special Investigation, respondent Aquino stated that it was not his duty to investigate complaints against BSP lawyers and staff including those from his Bureau as this duty belongs to Litigation & Investigation Group of the Office of the General Counsel and Legal Services of the BSP," Dao said.

Dao, whose findings were approved by Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, also said that "the allegations against Capistrano and Gerona are not substantiated convincingly.  In fact, an Urban Bank official, a certain Atty. Corazon M. Bejasa advised complainant Rene Colin Gray in the presence of respondents Capistrano and Gerona that he could not be forced to sign his affidavit, while complainant Pinto's request was granted to consult first with her family before signing her affidavit.  Complainant Cecille A. Lopez was also granted the right to consult her lawyer."

Earlier, the Ombudsman dismissed the coercion charges filed by the same Urban Bank employees against Capistrano and Gerona for being plain harassment as the latter were merely performing their assigned jobs.

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