By Jeffrey Damicog
“Otso Diretso” senatorial candidates Lorenzo Tañada III, Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, and Gary Alejano asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) not to allow the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to represent the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) as legal counsel in the sedition complaint the latter filed against them and their co-respondents for allegedly having a hand in the production of the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” viral videos.
“The PNP-CIDG has a legal service with lawyers in its ranks at its disposal. There is no justification for the intervention of the OSG in these proceedings, especially considering its patent lack of authority as well as the high probable conflict of interest,” read the joint motion filed by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyers Tañada, Diokno, and co-respondent, former Supreme Court (SC) spokesman Theodore Te.
Likewise, Alejano pointed out in a separate motion that “its (OSG) insistence on representing the PNP-CIDG-NCRFU (National Capital Region Field Unit) in the preliminary investigation of the instant case is surely an arrogation by the office of a power it clearly it does not have.”
The three “Otso Diretso” candidates filed the motion after Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda appeared as lead counsel of the PNP-CIDG August 9 at the start of the preliminary investigation of the complaint being conducted by a panel of prosecutors chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas.
Citing the Administrative Code of 1987 and Presidential Decree 478 which created the OSG, the three “Otso Diretso” candidates said that, in criminal proceedings, “the OSG may represent the government, its agencies, and instrumentalities only in the Supreme Court and in the Court of Appeals.”
“Hence, considering that the instant case is a criminal proceeding, respondents finds it amusing that the OSG represents the PNP-CIDG-NCRFU though the proceeding has not yet reached the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals,” read the motion of Alejano.
“It must be pointed out that, should the case proceed to court and thus be now a case involving ‘the people’ as adverted to the Administrative Code, the OSG would still be barred from participating as the prosecution of cases would be the exclusive domain of the National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice (DOJ),” the FLAG lawyers also pointed out.
The three “Otso Diretso” candidates also cited in their separate motions the 1990 Supreme Court (SC) ruling in the Urbano vs. Chavez case which questioned the OSG lawyering for a public official during a preliminary investigation.
In the 1990 SC decision on the case, the high court found “conflict of interest” in OSG’s representation of the public official during the preliminary investigation and, thus, ruled that “the Office of the Solicitor General is not authorized to represent a public official at any stage of a criminal case.”
“With the Urbano doctrine firmly in place, the OSG is thus prohibited from any participation in any criminal proceeding, whether on behalf of the prosecution or the defense, at any time before the appelate stage where it will have to stand against the accused as the government’s appeals’ counsel,” explained Diokno, Tañada, and Te in their motion.
In its complaint, the PNP-CIDG accused the 36 respondents of having committed sedition, inciting to sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal, and obstruction of justice.
The case stemmed from the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos which features Peter Joemel Advincula alias Bikoy and accused a number of personalities including family members of President Rodrigo Duterte as being involved in the illegal drugs trade.
“As averred by Mr. Advincula, he was engaged by the respondents to spread lies against the President, his family and close associate, making them to appear as illegal trade protectors and how they earned staggering amounts of money,” read the PNP-CIDG complaint.
Aside from Alejano, Tañada, Diokno and Te, the complaint named as respondents other “Otso Diretso” senatorial candidates of the Liberal Party, namely, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Robredo’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, former Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, and Samira Gutoc-Tomawis.
The complaint also include as respondents Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo; incumbent Senators Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros and Leila De Lima; and former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.