MANILA — Detained Sen. Leila De Lima on Saturday appealed the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision that dismissed her complaint against Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for allegedly violating the law on using convicts as state witnesses.
In her appeal to the Court of Appeals, De Lima said under Sec. 10 (f) of the Witness Protection, Security and Benefits Program (WPSBP) Law, convicts are disqualified to stand as state witnesses.
“The WPSBP Law prohibits those convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude from becoming state witnesses… The Bilibid convicts turned state witnesses against De Lima by the DOJ... were convicted of heinous crimes, including kidnapping, murder, drug trading, among others,” read a statement from the office of the senator, a former justice chief.
She also blasted the Ombudsman for allegedly failing to investigate Guevarra, for defending him, and for not even asking him to reply to her complaint filed on Oct. 29, 2018.
“The Office of the Ombudsman, instead of investigating what itself admitted is Guevarra’s act of turning convicts as state witnesses, acted like a pro bono counsel of Guevarra,” the statement said.
Guevarra was accused of neglecting his duty as Justice secretary in the complaint for failing to prosecute Bilibid drug lords “who admitted being involved in the drug trade [and] instead [used] them as state witnesses.”
The same drug convicts had implicated De Lima in the drug charges, which the staunch administration critic said were politically motivated.
In dismissing the administrative complaint, the Ombudsman said that Sec. 10 (f) of the law “does not apply if the crime was committed in prison and the only witnesses are convicted criminals.”
But De Lima said no such exception or proviso exists under the WPSBP, and said the Ombudsman only invented it.
“If this kind of culture and thinking in the Ombudsman are allowed to fester, the constitutional office might as well be abolished for having been neutered by its very own officials,” she said.
De Lima has been detained at the PNP Custodial Center since February 2017.
Refusal to exercise powers?
De Lima also pointed out that the Ombudsman asked Guevarra to submit a certification that would show the status of the convicted criminals who turned state witnesses under the law. The justice secretary, however, denied the request because the status is confidential.
Because of this, the Ombudsman said its investigation on the matter could not continue.
The senator described the development as “absurd and ridiculous” because the office’s investigation “cannot be defeated just because the subject of the complaint refuses to cooperate.”
“The Ombudsman seems to project itself as an ‘inutile, useless, powerless, if not lazy and indolent agency of the government, for it to be defeated in its mandate by a mere refusal of Respondent to furnish it with a requested certification,” she said.
“What the Ombudsman is saying is that it is the responsibility of the citizens to investigate and furnish it with evidence via spoon-feeding before it can act on any complaint filed against a public official. This is almost hilarious if it were not so tragic.”
De Lima is facing 3 charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade, allegations stemming from her stint as justice secretary. She got involved, as alleged, supposedly to raise funds for her senatorial bid. She has repeatedly denied the charges.
Her lawyers recently told media that several witnesses, including convicted drug lord Vicente Sy, officials from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council, among others, supposedly admitted on the witness stand that they do not have personal knowledge about De Lima’s alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.
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