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‘I quit with honor intact’

Rojas rejects PNoy’s plea to stay on as NBI chief Resigned National Bureau of Investigation director Nonnatus Caesar Rojas rejected an appeal from President Benigno Aquino III for him to stay on, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima revealed Thursday. De Lima said she had tried on three occasions to convince Rojas to reconsider the irrevocable resignation he filed Monday, and that even the President tried to talk him into staying with no success. “He told me, ma’am, I really feel that it is the most honorable thing to do, and want to keep my honor intact. So when I leave, I have my honor and integrity intact,” De Lima quoted Rojas as telling her. De Lima, officer-in-charge at the bureau, said Rojas’ replacement had not been chosen, but added that she preferred an insider, either from the NBI or the Justice Department. Rojas was a regional prosecutor in San Fernando City, La Union, when he was appointed by the President to head the NBI in July 2012. He abruptly resigned when the President said “rats” in the NBI had tipped off the accused mastermind in the pork barrel scam Janet Lim Naples about her impending arrest, enabling her to go into hiding. The President also said there were “less trustworthy agents and officials” within the NBI. Rojas was also hurt when the NBI, the lead agency in the pork barrel investigation, was not informed that Napoles had surrendered to the President. Since the integrity of the entire organization was called into question, Rojas deemed it necessary to resign out of delicadeza (a sense of propriety), De Lima said. She said Rojas believed that as the leader of the institution, resigning was the most honorable thing to do. De Lima said she and Aquino still trusted Rojas, and that the President’s statements about the NBI were not directed at him. She also said that even if there were three or four deputy directors linked to questionable activities, her trust in the NBI as an institution remained intact. Although De Lima did not name the deputy directors involved, she quickly added that Deputy Director for Regional Operation Services Virgilio Mendez was not one of them. De Lima earlier called on the NBI deputy directors to resign over “trust and integrity issues,” and even threatened to have them removed if they did not leave voluntarily. Deputy Director for Administrative Service Edmund Arugay heeded the call of De Lima and resigned Tuesday. The other NBI deputy directors are Rickson Chiong (Technical Services), Reynaldo Esmeralda (Intelligence Services), Ruel Lasala (Special Investigative Services), and Rafael Ragos (Comptroller Services). However, despite her recent pronouncements, De Lima said there was no solid evidence against them, even though the allegations agains them were persistent. The recent resignations at the NBI, which is under the Justice Department, come amid the ongoing investigation into the P10- billion pork barrel scam involving lawmakers who allegedly received hefty kickbacks of 50 percent to 60 percent of the amount of pork barrel funneled through bogus non-government organizations set up by Napoles. Napoles is now detained in a police camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, on a case of serious illegal detention initiated by a distant relative and former employee who blew the whistle on her. De Lima admitted that Rojas’ departure would delay the release of the bureau’s findings in the investigation of the pork barrel scam. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, however, that the vacancy at the top post of the NBI would not derail the investigation. “Justice Secretary De Lima wants a very thorough investigation. You can be assured that the investigation and the case build-up will not be affected,” Lacierda said. The President’s spokesman also brushed aside the effect of Mr. Aquino’s remarks on NBI agents and employees. “Any accusation of irregularity can always be assuaged with the balm of clean conscience,” he said. – With Joyce Pangco Pañares and Rey E. Requejo
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