MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice(DOJ) is willing to assist any government agency that seeks to have evidence against former First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo and son Ang Galing Pinoy Party-list Representative Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo evaluated in connection with their alleged involvement in smuggling and jueteng operations.
Speaking to reporters today, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said the DOJ can assist in the evaluation of evidence to determine if these are sufficient to warrant the filing of charges against the Arroyos after anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks revealed that top Filipino businessmen told United States (US) Embassy officials in 2005 about the father and son's alleged involvement in the illegal operations.
"Yun naman talaga ang nagiging role na ng DOJ. Of course, our traditional role is: wait for the complaint, evaluate if there is probable cause or not. [But this time] may mga agencies na nagsi-seek ng assistance sa amin by way of evaluating what they have before they file cases. The DOJ is always willing to assist basta may nagre-request sa amin," De Lima said.
"We can always partner again and coordinate with the PNP (Philippine National Police) and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). I can definitely ask NBI to look into that," she added.
De Lima clarified that while the DOJ can help agencies evaluate the strength of evidence against the Arroyos, it cannot initiate the filing of the charges since it will be the department, through its state prosecutors, which will eventually determine the existence of probable cause to warrant the filing of cases in court if the complaints are filed with the DOJ.
The businessmen who were named in the reported "Philippines corruption: Business Leaders" confidential cable were identified as SGV founder Washington SyCip, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Francis Chua, and former Makati Business Club executive director Guillermo Luz.
Asked if she shared the view of some lawmakers that these businessmen should come forward and clarify the information, De Lima said: "Yes, that would make things easier kung mayroon talagang willing mag-share ng information. But, of course, we leave it up to them. Siyempre may mga abugado yan, hihingi yan ng mga advise kasi these businessmen, baka they themselves, would be implicating themselves."
The Justice chief said this is not the first time the Arroyos are being linked to smuggling and jueteng.
"Lalo na noon nung kapanahunan pa nila (term of former president Gloria Arroyo), we've been hearing certain allegations sa smuggling, may mga supposedly associates siya (Mike Arroyo) or partners in those illegal activities but they remain to be allegations. They remain to be information," De Lima said.