Palace keeps distance from Cunanan

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 03 2014 03:55 PM | Updated as of Mar 03 2014 11:55 PM

MANILA - Malacañang is keeping its distance from Technology Resource Center chief Dennis Cunanan's application for state witness amid questions about the TRC chief's credibility.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Cunanan's status as state witness is ultimately up to the trial court.

He said the Department of Justice is still evaluating Cunanan, who is applying to be state witness.

"The evaluation of Dennis Cunanan as a witness is being done by the DOJ, and as Secretary Leila de Lima already said, that Mr. Cunanan is prepared to face any questions on his role as TRC director, including the latest revelations that came out. So he is prepared to face off whoever, whatever accusations there are, and he is prepared to clear his name,' Lacierda said.

"But insofar as the Palace is concerned, we will leave it with the DOJ because they are in charge of gathering evidence and gathering witnesses. He is the latest person to volunteer to be a whistleblower and so we will let the prosecution take its course."

The Palace took in stride questions raised against Cunanan's credibility.

Cunanan is himself charged before the Ombudsman over the pork barrel scam.

"We are in a democratic space. There will be people who will be investigating the background. This is not the first time it happened. Everybody who came out had to undergo a background investigation, whether from within or from media itself. So it's, I think, a normal process in a democratic system to look into the credibility of each and every witness. It happened (to) Mr. Benhur Luy, it happened to the other witnesses also. This is not something new," the Palace spokesman said.

Lacierda also tried to calm concerns that there will be a rush of people wanting to escape prosecution through the government's witness protection program.

He said all potential whistle-blowers are going to be screened by the DOJ.

"I think the Palace will defer to the Department of Justice as to the evaluation of each and every person who comes up and volunteers to testify as a witness. There is a process; there is a basis, a standard by which a person should be considered as a-can be considered a state witness and a possible whistle-blower. So it is something that DOJ is prepared to handle, so we will leave it with the DOJ. I think the rules on criminal procedure is a guide, is a basis for the DOJ to evaluate whether a person can be considered a witness that can testify for government...If (there is) any witness (who) would like to come in, they are free to talk to DOJ, and the DOJ will evaluate their situation. "

Meantime the Palace has also kept its distance from the pace of the cases filed before the Ombudsman.

Lacierda said that after the filing of cases, the Ombudsman still has to evaluate the evidence presented before bringing the case to the Sandiganbayan.

"Under the law, it is the Ombdusman which files cases before the Sandiganbayan. It is with the Ombudsman. So, again, it is not within the Executive branch," Lacierda said.

"The Office of the Ombudsman is currently conducting a preliminary investigation, with respect to the PDAF respondents. So we don't know yet the resolution of the preliminary investigation. Insofar as the DOJ is concerned, when they filed those cases, they believe they have a strong case. But again, filing it before the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman evaluating it is a separate issue. They have the duty and the mandate to evaluate cases filed before them, so that is subject to the Ombudsman," he added.