MANILA - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima believes a verdict may soon be handed down against the key members of the Ampatuan clan accused in the killing of 58 people in Maguindanao in November 2009.
Thanks to recent guidelines issued by the Supreme Court, her earlier forecast of a conviction in the most heinous election-related crime in Philippine history may yet come true.
In an interview by journalist Cheche Lazaro which aired on ABS-CBN on Sunday night, de Lima said: “Nag-issue ng guidelines ang SC authorizing courts na pwede na mag-render ng partial judgments sa mga kaso na kumpleto na ang presentation of evidence…Example, sila [Andal Ampatuan Jr., Andal Ampatuan Sr., Zaldy Ampatuan], pwede nang basahan ng verdict dahil ineexpect namin na matatapos na ang presentation of evidence.”
It used to be that the court would have to wait for the presentation of evidence against all accused, she said. She said the hitch with the Maguindanao massacre case lies in the fact that not all suspects have been arrested until now.
The case has been before the court since 2010, pushing pundits to ask when the country will be able to mete justice for the 58 victims.
De Lima is not deterred, however. “The Maguindanao massacre is a litmus test. If we fail, the entire criminal justice is a failure.”
JUSTICE IN PORK BARREL SCAM
The justice chief’s aggressive stance is not new. De Lima was never one to keep her mouth shut especially if there is a reason to do so.
Despite the picture of a strong-willed woman, de Lima said she also “cries” to herself once in a while.
“I don’t mind criticisms as long as they’re constructive. Yung iba, foul, below the belt. Nasasaktan ako syempre, but I don’t show it. I don’t cry in public, it might be misconstrued as weakness,” she said.
De Lima also admitted that she once planned on resigning. This was when Malacanang did not uphold her committee’s administrative and criminal findings in the bus hostage crisis at the Quirino grandstand in 2010.
“In fact, the President knew that it [resignation] crossed my mind. I just felt a little bad…It was just a difference in opinion, nothing more, nothing less,” she said.
In the end, de Lima said she had to become a “team player” and thus decided not to quit. “I’m just the alter-ego of the president.”
She said the work to bring justice to victims of crimes should continue. Today, her eyes are set on bringing to an end the pork barrel scam scandal.
“If the Maguindanao massacre is the litmus test in criminal justice, the pork barrel case is the litmus test of the government’s anti-corruption efforts,” she added.