Sen. Leila M. de Lima has appealed to the Court of Appeals the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman dismissing her complaint against Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for violation of the law on the use of criminal convicts as State witnesses.
De Lima, detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Quezon City for drug-related charges, filed the administrative complaint against Guevarra with the Office of the Ombudsman on Oct. 29, 2018.
In the complaint, De Lima also charged Guevarra with gross neglect of duty for failing to prosecute Bilibid drug lords who admitted being involved in the drug trade, instead using them as State witnesses against her, even when the convicts appeared to be the most guilty, aside from being disqualified to stand as State witnesses under Section 10(f) of the Witness Protection, Security, and Benefits Program (WPSBP) law.
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 Department of Justice (DoJ) under then Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, and continued by Guevarra, were convicted of heinous crimes, including kidnapping, murder, and drug trading.
In dismissing De Lima’s complaint, the Office of the Ombudsman said that Section 10 (f) does not apply if the crime was committed in prison and the only witnesses are convicted criminals.
In her appeal to the CA, De Lima countered that there is no such exception or proviso in the WPSBP law, and that said exception is an invention of the Ombudsman.
De Lima, a former Justice Secretary, also said that 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, when it raised defenses for Guevarra on its own and without asking Guevarra to reply to De Lima’s complaint.
It also appeared that the Office of the Ombudsman asked Guevarra to submit a certification on the status of the convicted criminal witnesses under the WPSBP of the DoJ.
Guevarra told the Ombudsman that said status is confidential.
The Ombudsman relayed to De Lima in its notice to her that in light of Guevarra’s failure to issue a certification to the Ombudsman, it cannot continue the investigation.
In her appeal to the CA, De Lima said that this is “absurd and ridiculous” because an Ombudsman investigation cannot be defeated just because the subject of the complaint refuses to cooperate.
According to De Lima, “(i)f 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.”