Agency head quits; Palace scrambles to avert backlash
Caught by surprise by the sudden ‘irrevocable” resignation of National Bureau of Investigation Director Nonnatus Rojas, Malacanang on Monday immediately tried to avert what appears to be growing demoralization among government officials by saying that President Benigno Aquino III “was not inclined to accept” Rojas’ resignation.
Palace presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that just like Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the Palace still trusts the NBI director.
NBI Chief Rojas
“Director Nonie has accomplished a lot, and this, in our view, is the reason why Secretary de Lima recommended that we reject his resignation,” said Lacierda.
The Palace official was referring to De Lima’s ‘wholehearted” recommendation for the President “not to accept the resignation.”
The NBI is under the administrative supervision of the Department of Justice.
“If you recall, a number of investigations, a number of reports have been initiated under his watch. You’ve got the Atimonan (incident); you’ve got the Balintang Channel report. And also, there are a number of sensitive cases that are being handled by Director Nonie Roxas, coming from Secretary Leila de Lima,” he added.
Roxas, who resigned Monday morning, was apparently slighted by Aquino’s statement a week ago that he “smelled a rat” in the agency, who he claimed tipped alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles of the impending arrest warrant against her three weeks ago.
The NBI was the lead agency in the manhunt against Napoles, but the agency was left in the dark when the fugitive surrendered personally to Aquino on Wednesday last week.
The President’s statement and Rojas’ subsequent resignation, had already caused “demoralization” among NBI officials and employees, top bureau officials said.
“We are sad. We feel demoralized,” a ranking NBI official said in a phone intervie+w.
The official said just like everybody else in the bureau, he was surprised by Rojas’ resignation since they were talking to each other before the 8 a.m. flag raising ceremony.
“We were together since 7:15 a.m. until the flag ceremony at 8 a.m. I had no idea about his plan to resign,” added the official, who has been with the bureau for several years.
Another ranking bureau official echoed the same sentiments, saying that top officers of the bureau now feel that they are all suspects. “We were stunned by the move of Rojas, but we understand how he feels because we have the same feeling,” the official said.
The official said their morale is low with the President’s statement, even calling them “rats.”
NBI spokesperson Cecilio Zamora said they were taken aback with Rojas’ decision.
“We were surprised when we heard it. I learned that he tendered his resignation. I don’t know what will happen next,” he said.
He said everybody, including the NBI bureau chiefs and division heads, were all surprised by Rojas’ decision.
The NBI has been building a case against Napoles and others, including senators and congressmen who were implicated in the alleged bogus non-government organizations which were used to channel P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund, also known as “pork barrel.”
While Rojas’ resignation was irrevocable, De Lima pointed out it would still be subject to the approval of the President.
De Lima said she will prepare a transmittal letter and recommend that the President rejects Rojas’ resignation. She said Rojas still has her confidence, describing him a “good man.”
She said the resignation of Rojas, who was chairman of the Regional Prosecutors’ Council of the Philippines when designated to the NBI portfolio, is an indication that “he is very principled.”
Rojas served as the Regional Prosecutor of the Regional Prosecution Office I in San Fernando City, La Union when De Lima tapped him as NBI OIC after his predecessor, lawyer Magtanggol Gatdula, was sacked by the President.
“When I summoned him in my office, he told me he thinks it’s the most honorable thing to do under the circumstances where doubts are being cast on the integrity of the NBI as an institution…. He became too sensitive,” De Lima said.
“His resignation goes to show that he has delicadeza that although he knows and I explained to her that he was not the one being pinpointed by the President. Definitely, he has my trust and confidence and I will say that the President has trust and confidence in him,” De Lima said.
She admitted that Rojas’ resignation has something to do with a story that quoted the President as saying that there are “less than trustworthy” officials and agents in the NBI.
Rojas was practically an “NBI child” being the son of the late NBI Deputy Director for Intelligence, Atty. Mariano Roaquin Rojas.
At the age of six, he became an official member of the NBI family after his father was accepted to the bureau. He returned to its fold at 54 in July 2012, as its director.
Spending almost three decades of his life as a government’ employee, Rojas has never been dragged in any controversy or involved in any anomaly nor was he accused of any wrongdoing. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Rey E. Requejo