UP Professor Cristina Hidalgo writes Facebook note on being "hounded" by Ombudsman; Ombudsman denies singling her out

On August 31, 2010, University of the Philippines (UP) Professor Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo posted a note on her Facebook account, wherein she divulged that she was being "hounded" by Office of the Ombudsman prosecutors, reports GMANews.TV. Apparently, reports Inquirer.net, the award-winning writer-teacher was accused misusing an office vehicle back in 2006.

In her Facebook note, Hidalgo explained said she was being "hounded" because the office car she used on June 25, 2006 was allegedly seen in front of Tonton Thai Massage on Tomas Morato Street, Quezon City on that day at 3:30 p.m. She denied this and said she used the car to go to a lunch meeting at Dulcinea on Tomas Morato to raise funds for the University. She said they left at 1:30 p.m., as recorded in the official trip ticket.

Hidalgo, "The strange thing is that the accompanying photos (the evidence, I assume) showed the car to be parked in front of Dulcinea--not the massage establishment named--with the sign above its entrance prominently shown. And the affidavits of the people who allegedly saw the car and took the photographs--’Associate Graft Investigation Officers’ Peter John R. Arellano and Rholie C. Besoña--did not claim that they went inside Tonton Massage to see if I was indeed there, or that they tried to find the driver and examine his trip ticket."

Three months after the Dulcinea meeting, the Task Force Oplan Red Plate issued a subpoena to UP directing the school to submit Hidalgo’s driver’s trip tickets and other related documents within the June 13 to 28, 2006 period. "It contained the ominous threat that failure to do so within 3 days of receipt would ’merit the filing of criminal charges’ as well as administrative charges," Hidalgo said.

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Dr. Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo gives a speech at the launch of the University of the Philippines Manila Centennial Publications in 2009.

UP submitted the required documents and did not hear from the Office of the Ombudsman for about four years, according to Hidalgo. In May 2010, the Office of the Ombudsman supposedly sent an "order" to UP, which contained the allegations that the car issued to Hidalgo was seen in front of Tonton Thai Massage. It said Hidalgo and her assigned driver were being investigated for graft and "dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service."

Hidalgo said in her letter, "I feel most aggrieved. Given the countless cases of blatant graft and corruption, involving billions of pesos, which seem to be resolutely ignored, why am I being singled out for this harassment by the Office of the Ombudsman?"

On the other hand, the Office of the Ombudsman denied singling out Hidalgo, reports GMANews.tv. "This is an ordinary quasi-judicial proceeding based on an affidavit filed by our Task Force Oplan Red Plate," Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus told GMANews.tv. " Many (affidavits) have been filed and the case of Professor Hidalgo is just one of them. All respondents, like her, are given full opportunity to explain. We decide based on law and evidence only. No hounding, no oppressions."

For more on this story, log on to Inquirer.net and GMANews.tv.

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