De Lima files raps vs Aguirre, Guevarra

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 06 2018 10:44 PM

MANILA - Detained Senator Leila de Lima is turning the tables against former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and current Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra by filing multiple complaints against them before the Office of the Ombudsman.

De Lima accused Aguirre and Guevarra of violating the provisions of the Revised Penal Code; the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act; and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over the admission of 13 convicts as state witnesses in the drug cases against her.

The senator is facing three drug cases before the Muntinlupa regional trial courts.

“The admission of the convicted criminals as state witnesses is illegal,” she said in a 22-page complaint-affidavit filed on October 29.

She was referring to the following witnesses:

  • Nonilo Arile, convicted for murder and kidnapping
  • Jojo Baligad, convicted for murder
  • Herbert Colanggo, convicted for robbery with homicide
  • Engelberto Durano, convicted for frustrated murder and murder
  • Rodolfo Magleo, convicted for kidnapping for ransom
  • Vicente Sy, convicted for illegal sale and delivery of methamphetamine
  • hydrochloride (shabu)
  • Hans Tan, convicted for robbery and direct assault with murder
  • Froilan Trestiza, convicted for kidnapping
  • Peter Co, convicted for illegal sale and delivery of methamphetamine
  • hydrochloride (shabu)
  • Noel Martinez, convicted for kidnapping for ransom
  • Joel Capones, convicted for homicide
  • German Agojo, convicted for illegal sale and delivery of
  • methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu)
  • Jaime Patcho, convicted for kidnapping for ransom

These were the same witnesses who testified against her during the House of Representatives justice committee’s probe into the alleged illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison.

De Lima said the admission of the 13 convicts, who are facing penalties of reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal, violates Republic Act No. 6981 or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, which requires that before a witness can be admitted as a state witness, he/she must not have been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.

Based on cases decided by the Supreme Court, moral turpitude refers to “an act of baseness, vileness or depravity” that “gravely violates moral sentiment or accepted moral standards of the community…” which includes robbery, murder, homicide and violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

According to De Lima’s complaint-affidavit, the 13 convicts confessed to allegedly taking part in the illegal drug trade inside Bilibid in their affidavits but were not charged because they were granted immunity in exchange for testifying against her.

She claimed this constituted dereliction of duties on the part of public officers Aguirre and Guevarra, in violation of Art. 208 of the Revised Penal Code.

“[I]nstead of so charging them for the said crime, Secretaries Aguirre and Guevarra illegally turned them into, and continue to maintain them as, State witnesses, despite knowing fully well that they are disqualified from being admitted as such because they are criminals already convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude,” she said.

De Lima also accused the two of violating sec. 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when they gave the convicts “unwarranted benefits” such as a secure housing facility, livelihood and other benefits under the witness protection program

She said Aguirre showed manifest partiality or bias against her because of various statements he made against her during the investigation of her drug cases. Aguirre had claimed on several occasions that he has evidence to prove that De Lima received drug trade money.

The senator meanwhile accused Guevarra of evident bad faith in refusing to confirm that the 13 convicts have been admitted as state witnesses invoking confidentiality when they had in fact been admitted.

Manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence are ways of committing graft.

Administrative complaints vs Guevarra

On top of the criminal complaints, De Lima filed administrative charges against Guevarra over the same acts. She accused him of gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service, under the Revised Administrative Code, punishable by suspension or dismissal from service.

“Secretary Guevarra has already been notified of the fact that the criminals convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude were illegally admitted as State witnesses into the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program of the DOJ. As such, the proper response was to remove them as beneficiaries. Still, he has refused and is unwilling to do so,” she said.

“Moreover, Secretary Guevarra has also failed to indict aforementioned convicted criminals for illegal drug trading despite their unequivocal admissions and confessions under oath. The failure to file the necessary Information is a flagrant breach of duty on the part of the Secretary. Ultimately, he has committed gross neglect of duty as the Secretary of Justice,” she added.

ABS-CBN News is still trying to get the side of Aguirre and Guevarra.

Pending drug cases

De Lima previously raised the issue of the disqualification of the convicted witnesses in her motion to inhibit before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206.

While rejecting the grounds raised by De Lima, Judge Lorna Navarro Domingo on Monday recused herself from hearing the drugs case to show “good faith” to all parties.

Two other cases are pending before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205.

Initially accused of “illegal drug trading,” De Lima now faces “conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.”

The senator has maintained her innocence and has questioned the lack of evidence against her.