De Lima may avail herself of all legal remedies — Guevarra

Published November 30, 2020, 5:24 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Sunday, November 30, detained Sen. Leila de Lima may avail herself of all legal remedies in connection with the dismissal by the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) of the administrative complaint she filed against him.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

De Lima had filed in 2018 an administrative complaint for alleged gross neglect of duty against Guevarra before the OMB for using convicted prisoners as witnesses against her in her illegal drugs cases pending before the Muntinlupa City regional trial court (RTC).

Published reports stated that De Lima has filed a petition with the Court of Appeals (CA) challenging the OMB’s dismissal order.

When asked to comment on De Lima’s CA petition, Guevarra said:

“If it is true that the matter has been elevated to the CA, then it’s sub judice. If asked to comment (by the CA), i will make the comment in court.

“It is not my policy to discuss in public cases which are under litigation or review, because such act may constitute contempt of court which is punishable under existing rules.

“Suffice it to say that Senator De Lima is free to take all available legal remedies, as she has freely done since the time that she was indicted for serious criminal offenses.”

In a published statement, De Lima was quoted as saying that “the law on Witness Protection, Security and Benefits Program (WPSBP) prohibits those convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude from becoming state witnesses…. The New Bilibid Prisons’ (NBP) convicts turned state witnesses against me by the Department of Justice (DOJ)… were convicted of heinous crimes, including kidnapping, murder, drug trading, among others.”

It was during the time of then DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that government prosecutors announced the utilization of several NBP convicts as witnesses against De Lima.

Guevarra pursued his predecessor’s stance.  De Lima filed a case against him before the OMB.

In dismissing the complaint, the OMB was reported to have said that the WPSBP law does not apply if the crime is “committed in prison and the only witnesses are convicted criminals.”

On the basis of OMB’s ruling, De Lima was reported to have elevated the issue before the CA.

In 2017, De Lima was arrested and detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Quezon City on three criminal charges involving illegal drugs trade in the NBP in Muntinlupa City. The criminal cases are still pending before the three branches of the Muntinlupa City RTC.