ONE of the 30 assistants of Solicitor General Jose Calida was arrested two weeks ago in Washington D.C. where he was attending a seminar on international arbitration, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Justice confirmed Thursday.
DFA spokesman Charles Jose confirmed that the Philippine Embassy in Washington had been extending legal assistance to Assistant Solicitor General Derek Puertollano after he was charged last November 19 with “misdemeanor sexual abuse of a child or minor” for allegedly molesting a 13-year-old boy.
“The embassy (in Washington D.C.) was made aware of this case and has been extending appropriate assistance,” Jose said, declining to discuss Puertollano’s case.
“We understand that information from the court proceedings, including bail conditions, are in the public record,” said Jose, who initially claimed he was not aware of the case.
Jose said Puertollano was arraigned before Judge William Jackson of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia shortly after his arrest on November 19 and he pleaded not guilty. He was granted bail but was prohibited from leaving the United States and ordered to surrender his passport.
The embassy said Puertollano is represented by Washington trial lawyer Charles Murdter and the hearing of his case will resume on December 9.
Aside from Jose, even the Department of Justice appeared to have been surprised by Puertollano’s arrest with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III saying he did not sign a travel authority for the state lawyer’s trip to the US.
But Aguirre clarified that there was nothing irregular about that and directed journalists to Puertollano’s direct supervisor Calida.
“He [Puertollano] got his travel permit from the OSG. That is allowed because they are an independent agency from the DoJ,” Aguirre said.
Calida, for his part, issued a statement Thursday evening saying he is investigating the child abuse case against Puertollano in the US.
“My office is conducting independent fact-finding investigation of this incident. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Calida said.
Calida said his assistant was on official business in Washington D.C. for a seminar on international arbitration.