Bantag inhibition plea junked

The Department of Justice has denied, for lack of merit, the motion for inhibition by suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag against the DoJ panel of prosecutors conducting a preliminary investigation into the Percy Lapid slay case.

The junking of the petition was confirmed by Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento.

With the dismissal of the motion, the next hearing was set on 24 January at 3 p.m. where the respondents in the case are expected to submit their counter-affidavits.

To recall, Bantag filed a motion for inhibition against the Justice department, saying the Constitution states that even in offenses falling within the jurisdiction of regular courts, the Ombudsman can conduct a preliminary investigation if the offenses committed by a public official appear to be improper and illegal.

This was according to Atty. Rocky Balisong, one of Bantag’s lawyers, during the 5 December second preliminary investigation into the consolidated complaints in relation to the cases of Lapid and Cristito “Jun” Villamor — the alleged middleman in the Lapid case — which was held at the DoJ.

A motion for inhibition, according to a previous ruling by the Supreme Court, means that “a party has the right to seek the inhibition or disqualification of a judge who does not appear to be wholly free, disinterested, impartial and independent in handling the case.”

Balisong sought the inhibition of the DoJ prosecutors and the immediate transfer of the investigation of the murder charges before the Ombudsman, saying the latter had primary jurisdiction over his client under Article 11, Section 13, paragraph 1 of the Constitution.

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