MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday urged National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza to surrender to authorities after a court ordered their arrest in connection with a double murder charge that it assailed about a decade ago.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Maza remains NAPC secretary but he said she should surrender and recognize the jurisdiction of the court, otherwise she would be considered a fugitive.
“If they are innocent, they should surrender, recognize the jurisdiction of the court and prove their innocence,” Roque said in a press briefing.
“She has to heed the warrant of arrest. Not even the president can interfere in the judicial process.”
Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte has not yet spoken about the matter, but the chief executive “expects Cabinet members to adhere to the rule of law in this country.”
A Nueva Ecija court issued arrest warrants against Maza and former congressmen Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, Rafael Mariano, who were accused in 2006 of killing political rivals.
The same court, however, said in 2008 that the case had no probable cause due to "irregularities in the preliminary investigation" and the failure of witnesses to appear before a fiscal to back their claims, said the leftist leaders' lawyer, Rachel Pastores.
The court has not explained why it changed its stance and issued the arrest warrant, she said.
The leftist leaders have filed a motion for reconsideration seeking to dismiss the case and the warrant of arrest against them, said Pastores.
Maza is among the leftist figures that Duterte had appointed at the beginning of his term, in a sign of warming ties between the government and the communist rebels.
Duterte and the left, however, recently had a falling out due to the postponement of the resumption of peace talks.
Other leftist members of the Duterte government have since left the government, including former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo and former agrarian reform secretary Rafael Mariano.