MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) stands firm on its position in favor of the discharge of former Mindanao provincial election supervisors (PES) Lilian Radam and Yogie Martirizar as co-accused in the electoral sabotage case against former Chairman Benjamin Abalos for alleged vote-rigging in the 2007 midterm elections.
The case is pending before a Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
In a chance interview with Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, she said the DOJ "has every right" to push for the move as a matter of "legal strategy."
"It's a judgment call... it's a difficult judgment to make... for us it boils down to strategy, to us it boils down to a choice: a choice between the biggest fish, Chairman Abalos, or those two women," she said.
Abalos' former lawyer, Brigido Dulay, accused the justice chief and the DOJ on Thursday of "exerting pressure" on the Comelec to drop the charges against the two election officers.
"I feel there is pressure being exerted by DOJ on Comelec to discharge [Martirizar and Radam] as witnesses. Kasi kung makikita ninyo ang dynamics ng relationship ng lawyer of Radam and Martirizar, Nena Santos... and Nena Santos is a good friend of the DOJ Secretary. Dun pa lang alam niyo na di ba?" Dulay said.
De Lima, however, insisted she can "meddle" in the case. She made it clear, meantime, that the Comelec will have the final say on Radam and Martirizar's fate being the lead prosecuting agency for election offenses.
"Of course, I can meddle... We are part of the prosecution... Ito yung pagkakataon na we have to choose sino ba iipitin natin. Once in a lifetime lang ang ganyang pagkakataon. Kung guilty siya (Abalos), kailangan managot siya," she said.
A separate electoral sabotage case is pending with the Pasay RTC against former President Gloria Arroyo, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and former election supervisor Lintang Bedol.