MANILA—The camp of opposition leaders on Friday lambasted the Office of the Solicitor General for participating in the justice department's investigation on the sedition complaint against them.
Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda appeared at the start of the probe to represent the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, which filed the complaint over the opposition's alleged hand in several viral videos linking President Rodrigo Duterte to the narcotics trade.
The lawyers of Chel Diokno, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Sen. Leila de Lima and former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay questioned the authority for Miranda to appear at the preliminary investigation of a criminal proceeding.
It is not illegal for the OSG, as lawyer of the republic, to assist the CIDG in drafting the affidavit of Peter Joemel “Bikoy” Advincula, whose sworn statement was the basis for the sedition complaint, Miranda said, quoting the opinion of former University of the Philippines Law dean Pacifico Agabin.
The Administrative Code also mandates the OSG to “act and represent the Republic and/or the people before any court, tribunal, body or commission in any matter, action or proceeding which, in his opinion, affects the welfare of the people as the ends of justice may require," said Miranda.
Former Sen. Rene Saguisag, who represents Hontiveros, replied that the OSG should be the tribune of the people not the “tuta” or lapdog of the administration.
“Ang OSG tribune of the people, hindi tuta ng Malacañang. Kaya dito, in the end, they may even move for our acquittal or dismissal ng kaso so it should not sandbag itself into becoming a defender of the attempt of the administration to eliminate all dissent and dissenters,” he explained to the media after the hearing.
(The OSG is the tribune of the people, not Malacañang’s lapdog. Here, they may even move for our acquittal or the dismissal of the case so it should not sandbag itself into becoming a defender of the attempt of the administration to eliminate all dissent and dissenters.)
ABS-CBN News earlier reported that 2 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.
“Kung bakit nakikialam ang SolGen sa kaso namin alam naman natin na hindi pangkaraniwang ginagawa nila 'yan at we don’t know why we are being given that kind of special treatment by the OSG,” Diokno said.
(Why is the OSG involved in our case? We know they don’t normally do that. And we don’t know why we are being given that kind of special treatment by the OSG.)
Hilbay said that as former SolGen his office never interfered in the investigation of a criminal case.
He also said the provision in the Administrative Code the OSG cited is generic.
“[T]he more specific provisions of the Charter referred to the power of the OSG in appellate cases in criminal cases so that is a very limiting provision and there is a reason for that dahil gusto nga ng batas na malaya ang opisina ng taga-usig panlahat na magdesisyon pagdating sa apela ng mga criminal cases,” he said.
(The more specific provisions of the Charter referred to the power of the OSG in appellate cases in criminal cases so that is a very limiting provision and there is a reason for that because the law wants that the Office of the Solicitor General is free to decide on appeals in criminal cases.)
“Kung nakikialam na siya sa imbestigasyon pa lang, wala na 'yung kalayaan na yon. Masisira 'yung intensyon ng batas,” he added.
(If he interfered at the investigation stage, that independence is lost. You destroy the intent of the law.)
Under Presidential Decree No. 478, the OSG is authorized to represent the government in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals in all criminal proceedings.
Miranda refused to grant media interviews after the hearing but in an earlier statement addressing possible conflict of interest, the OSG said that in a criminal case, it is bound to defend and protect the People of the Philippines.
The prosecutors gave the respondents 5 days to submit a written motion questioning the OSG’s authority and the OSG another 5 days to submit its response.