THE issue on the suspension of Barangay Ermita officials has become Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino’s and the “former political has been’s” battleground. The latter has threatened to sue Dino for obstruction of justice and accused him of interference for recommending possible Ermita officer-in-charge or caretaker.

Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta, upon the advise of Dino, reportedly recommended to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) two names as his temporary successor. Dino denied it, saying he does not want to interfere in a “local issue.” He likewise threatened to sue the ‘former political has-been” for defamation.

We know that a deep conflict exists between the two. Prior to his appointment as PAV, Dino’s business interests were blocked and harassed by the “former political has-been.” Now, their conflict has worsened because Dino is reportedly siding with “has-been” mayor Michael Rama.

Granting that Dino dipped his fingers into the Ermita case by recommending Imok’s replacement, can he be sued for “obstruction of justice”?

Remember that the six-month preventive suspension ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas on Rupinta and members of the barangay council for their failure to cooperate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in its anti-illegal drug campaign is a purely administrative matter. Can a person be charged with “obstruction of justice” in an administrative case?

Presidential Decree No. 1829 penalizes obstruction in the arrest and prosecution of criminal offenders. The purpose of the law is to discourage public indifference or apathy in the apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders. (Note the word “criminal offender”). Are Rupinta et al, at this stage, facing criminal investigation or prosecution?

There are eight elements or grounds under the law why a person can be charged with obstruction of justice and all the elements have something to do with criminal investigation and prosecution.

One is preventing witnesses from testifying in any criminal proceeding or from reporting the commission of any offense or the identity of any offender by means of bribery, misrepresentation, deceit, intimidation force or threat.

Another is altering, destroying, suppressing or concealing any paper, record, document or object “with intent to impair its verity, authenticity, legibility, availability or admissibility as evidence in any investigation or official proceedings in criminal cases or to be used in the investigation of or official proceedings in criminal cases.”

Still another is harboring or concealing or facilitating the escape of any person one has reasonable ground to believe has committed an offense to prevent his arrest, prosecution and conviction.

Morag layo ra man ning iya. Obstruction of “personal interest” kaha pero dili obstruction of justice.