MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday branded as desperate and uncivil negative statements issued against her by members of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity in connection with the September 23 post-Bar exams blast where at least 3 APO fratmen are tagged as suspects.
"Sila lang ang makapagsasabi kung nagsisisi sila. Please. Ang masasabi ko ngayon, I don't want to further dignify those things kasi makaka-divert lang yan o ma-de-deviate o maaapektuhan lang ang ginagawang efforts ngayon ng NBI," de Lima said in a news conference.
She added: "Maybe these things are signs of desperation or probably signs of lack of civility or professionalism. We don't want to be sidetracked by these insulting comments."
Authorities have filed charges of multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder against APO member Anthony Leal Nepomuceno after he was identified as a suspect in the grenade blast outside De la Salle University on Taft Avenue that injured 50 people.
Two other APO fratmen, who have yet to surface, are tagged as his conspirators.
APO frat leaders and members have said they regret turning over Nepomuceno to the National Bureau of Investigation after he was identified as a suspect in the crime. They said the fraternity will no longer cooperate with the NBI and justice department because they were allegedly being singled out by the justice chief.
They also slammed de Lima for saying that APO members are also behind two more unresolved grenade-throwing incidents in Metro Manila: the La Consolacion College blast in Manila in March 2008 and the Perpetual Help College blast in March this year in Las Pinas. A total of 36 people were injured in these two incidents.
The Justice chief said criticisms against her and the handling of the DOJ and NBI of the bar blast probe will not get in the way of government's efforts to ferret out the truth behind these 3 grenade-throwing incidents.
APO is pushing for de Lima's inhibition from the bar blast case because she co-founded Lambda Rho Sigma, the counterpart sorority of Lambda Rho Beta, a known staunch rival of Alpha Phi Beta fraternity which incurred many injuries during the blast.
De Lima had earlier vowed to inhibit from the Bar blast investigation if there are indications her fraternity brothers and sorority sisters are involved. Neither the Supreme Court nor NBI investigation established Lambda Rho Beta and Sigma's involvement.
"Ang importante sa amin is talagang malaman na at matukoy na nang maayos at kumpleto kung sino man ang may kagagawan doon sa 3 insidente na yan. Yan ang focus ngayon, to have a complete picture," de Lima said.
The Justice Department and NBI are also trying to determine the identities of other people who should be held responsible for the Bar blast.
"Andyan na kung sino ang suspected grenade-thrower, andyan na kung sino tumulong sa kanya. So sino pa ang mga kasama? Hindi naman pwede na tatlo lang sila," de Lima said.