OSG slams 'self-serving' Hilbay, says 'well-within law' to assist PNP in sedition case

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 26 2019 06:12 PM

MANILA - The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on Friday slammed former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay for saying it had no authority to assist in initiating the filing of criminal cases.

Hilbay, who was solicitor general from 2014 to 2016 during the Aquino administration, said the OSG's hand in the drafting of Peter Joemel Advincula's affidavit that tagged opposition figures in alleged destabilization efforts against government was alarming since the state's top lawyer should only come in when a case is in the appellate stage. 

The OSG, in a statement, called Hilbay's remarks "self-serving" and maintained that it was "well-within the bounds of law in rendering legal services" to state agencies, including the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

"While he may have been Solicitor General only for 22 months, 12 of which was in an Acting Capacity, he should know that the OSG is bound to serve its clients in any matter, action or proceeding which, in his opinion, affects the welfare of the people as the ends of justice may require," it said.

ABS-CBN News reported Tuesday that two persons connected with the OSG authored and reviewed a Microsoft Word document containing the sworn statement of Advincula, the man who identified himself as hooded figure Bikoy in the "Ang Totoong Narcolist" videos. 

In the videos, which were released at the height of the May campaign season, Advincula tagged President Rodrigo Duterte's family in the drug trade. 

He later retracted his statements, instead accusing opposition figures of orchestrating a smear campaign against the President and his family. 

His affidavit was used by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to file sedition and inciting to sedition charges against Vice President Leni Robredo and other opposition figures, including Hilbay, who ran for senator under the opposition ticket but lost. 

The OSG said its legal services to state agencies are not limited to rendering opinions or representing them before the courts.

"Unless of course Hilbay failed to read OSG vs. CA promulgated when he assumed office in 2014, that the limitation anent the OSG is only in representing public officials in criminal case," it said.

The government's top lawyer added that it was not up to Hilbay to determine if Advincula would be qualified to be a state witness.
 
"Hilbay has no authority nor credibility to make such a conclusion. This matter should be raised and best threshed out during trial," it said.

 DOJ vows 'utmost fairness'

The Department of Justice, meanwhile, vowed "utmost fairness" in the resolution of the case.

"The evidence, or the lack of it, will speak for itself. In the ordinary course of things, the complaint shall be dismissed as to those respondents against whom no evidence is presented, while those against whom sufficient evidence is presented shall accordingly be indicted," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a statement.

Guevarra said subpoenas were served to respondents Friday and preliminary investigation was set on Aug. 9 at 10 a.m.

- With reports from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News