Llamas pressured INC

MANILA — Ronald Llamas, the chief political adviser of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, reportedly pressured the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC-Church of Christ) to talk to former Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas into abandoning the camp of Chief Justice Renato Corona, according to a well-placed source of The Manila Times.

If the Iglesia succeeded in convincing Cuevas to quit as the head counsel for Corona, Director Magtanggol Gatdula of the National Bureau of Investigation would stay in his post.

Gatdula was sacked by Malacañang last week because of his alleged participation in the abduction and extortion of a Japanese.

The source on Monday said that Llamas approached a spiritual minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo to talk to Cuevas to cut short his appearance as lead counsel for Corona.

He added that Llamas had talked with the spiritual minister, Erano Codera, for Cuevas to drop the case.

Codera became the chief liaison officer of the Iglesia ni Cristo, replacing Resty Lazaro.

Malacañang, according to the source, wanted “Sentral,” the headquarters of the Iglesia in Quezon City, to intervene in order to force Cuevas to obey the church and leave his job as lead defense lawyer.

When Codera talked to Cuevas, the 83-year old lawyer turned him down, saying that he was committed to defend Corona and that it was his belief that a lawyer should defend his client, not abandon him.

Cuevas refused to leave the defense team of the country’s top magistrate, despite the Palace pressuring the leadership of the Iglesia. His rejection of the quid-pro-quo offer reportedly cost Gatdula his job as director of the investigation bureau.

Cuevas and Gatdula belong to the politically influential INC, whose members are known to vote as a bloc.

Another source, this time from the Cuevas family, confirmed the pressure exerted by the Palace for Cuevas to withdraw.

Llamas’ bodyguards were caught with high-powered firearms late last year. Last week he himself was caught on video buying pirated DVDs.

A powerhouse team of lawyers from the Iglesia is defending Gatdula from kidnapping charges filed against him by the Department of Justice.

Headed by New Era College of Law Dean Abraham Espejo, the team won an initial victory last Friday by securing a 72-hour temporary restraining order from Executive Judge Marino dela Cruz of the Manila Regional Trial Court to stay the preliminary investigation of the Justice department.

New Era University is owned by the leadership of the Iglesia. The lawyers of Gatdula are all members of the church and professors at the university.

Based on Gatdula’s petition before the trial court, other Iglesia lawyers representing the former chief of the investigation bureau are Citedina Magno-Zarate, Nancy Ocampo, Madel Villaroman-Fiel, Allen Blair Boy and Janice Regoso.

The chief of the Iglesia ni Cristo Legal Department is Dorothy Kristine Manalo, a daughter of the church’s Head Spiritual Minister Eduardo Manalo.

An earlier source said that Gatdula was the first casualty of war between President Aquino and the Iglesia, which allegedly protested the impeachment case of Corona.

The source pointed out that Gatdula earlier tendered his resignation to the President for a graceful exit but Malacanang decided not to allow him to resign and instead fired him.

He said that Malacañang intended to humiliate Gatdula after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima held a press conference where she announced that Gatdula was sacked and that criminal and administrative charges would be filed against him in connection with the alleged extortion of Noriyo Ohara by officials of the investigation bureau amounting to P6 million in October and November 2010.

Gatdula was reportedly removed by Aquino on de Lima’s recommendation.

A probe panel from the Justice department recommended filing of charges of kidnapping for ransom and serious illegal detention against Gatdula and other officials of the bureau.

Cuevas also on Monday denied a newspaper report saying that he had been pressured by Malacañang to quit as the lead counsel for the Chief Justice.

“Paninirang-puri lang yan, hindi naman ako ganun kalaking tao, sino ba ako para lapitan ng Malacañang [That’s defamatory, I’m not that influential a person to be pressured by Malacañang]. But I’m dignified by that,” he told a radio interview.

But Cuevas said that nobody approached him to deliver the message from Malacañang for such purpose.

“Walang pressure ang Malacañang sa akin, walang pinapadalang tao, di totoo yan, walang katotohanan yan [Malacañang did not pressure me, it did not send anyone, there’s no truth to it],” he added.

But senator-judge Panfilo Lacson said that the Senate will require Cuevas to provide details regarding the matter.

He added that the accusation is so serious and whoever is responsible for the attempt to pressure Cuevas may be cited for indirect contempt.

Lacson said that although the allegation will not affect the integrity of the Senate as the impeachment court, it could, however, affect the integrity of the trial itself.

Leave a Reply