De Lima hits DOJ's 'substantive outrages' in final plea to SC
MANILA, Philippines – In her bid to gain temporary freedom, detained Senator Leila de Lima highlighted to the Supreme Court the "procedural and substantive outrages" allegedly committed by the special justice department panel that investigated her supposed involvement in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) drug trade.
This was contained in the senator's 64-page memorandum submitted to the Supreme Court on Monday, April 17, as required by the SC which heard oral arguments on her petitions last month.
De Lima, who was arrested on drug charges on February 24, maintained that she is a victim of "persecution" by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, a pattern allegedly mirrored by the Department of Justice (DOJ) panel investigation into her supposed links to the Bilibid drug trade when she was justice secretary.
"These various due process violations, disregard of constitutional rights, and violations of laws and procedure, reveal a clear and unmistakable pattern of persecution," she said in her memorandum.
The senator said "these procedural and substantive outrages committed by the DOJ panel in the course of the preliminary investigation" of the cases prompted her to go to the Court of Appeals.
De Lima noted that the "DOJ relied on the fabricated testimonies of the very convicts whose operations [she] stifled."
"The public pronouncements of the top government officials against the Petitioner, coupled with DOJ's refusal to charge the confessed drug lords from NBP, in exchange for their testimony against the Petitioner, are badges of persecution that call on the Supreme Court to perform its duty to temper the awesome powers of the government against patent violations of human rights," she told the Court.
"As the guardian of our Constitution and democracy, it is incumbent upon this Honorable Court to enjoin our law enforcement officials to perform their duties within the bounds defined by law and to undo any injustice committed in violation of the same," De Lima added.
In her memorandum, De Lima assailed the fact that none of the inmates who testified against her were made to appear personally before the DOJ panel. Instead, the latter just relied on their affidavits submitted before the House committee on justice that investigated De Lima's alleged drug links.
"The affidavits taken from the House inquiry were admitted wholesale by the panel, when the regular procedure even in ordinary preliminary investigation proceedings at the Assistant City Prosecutor level require the complainant's witnesses to physically appear before the prosecutor to affirm their testimonial affidavits," the senator said.
It was also the DOJ, according to De Lima, which waived her right to submit a counteraffidavit when it shrugged off her motion to refer the investigation to the Office of the Ombudsman.
"Instead of resolving first the Omnibus Motion of petitioner, the DOJ panel ruled that the said pending incidents would just be resolved alongside the merits of the complaints in joint resolution of the cases. Petitioner was likewise declared to have waived her right to file her counter-affidavit. An oral motion for reconsideration by petitioner's counsel was denied orally by the DOJ panel," the memorandum said.
De Lima also questioned why the DOJ did not file charges against alleged drug loard Kerwin Espinosa even though he admitted during the panel probe that he traded illegal drugs inside Bilibid.
In its resolution in February, the DOJ directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate Espinosa further.
"Espinosa made a sworn admission that he dealt and traded illegal drugs with the convicted criminal witnesses from outside the Bilibid Prisons. Yet, despite this admission, the DOJ panel at the conclusion of its investigation merely recommended additional investigations from the NBI for his case," the memorandum said.
De Lima insisted that the DOJ panel persecuted her to fulfill "one man's promise to make her rot in jail," referring to Duterte. (READ: EXPLAINER: What is Leila de Lima being accused of?)
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II is currently in the US and could not be reached for comment. He earlier distanced himself from the panel investigation, saying he did not have any hand in the proceedings.
Rappler reached out to the 5-man DOJ panel for comment through Undersecretary Erickson Balmes, who handles the DOJ's media affairs. Balmes said: "The matter is now before the Courts, we would rather await the resolution by Courts of the matter before it." (READ: EXPLAINER: Issues on jurisdiction in De Lima cases)
Questions for SolGen
De Lima also slammed Solicitor General Jose Calida for personally talking to inmate Jaybee Sebastian during the evidence gathering stage.
"There were indications that not all testimonies against petitioner were free-willing, and that the Solicitor General himself gave new meaning to his title when he himself solicited testimony from Jaybee Sebastian implicating Petitioner in the drug trade, in exchange for the latter's transfer back to the Maximum Security Compound of the New Bilibid Prison," the memorandum said.
During the oral arguments at the SC, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen also asked Calida about the Sebastian meeting as mentioned in the convict's affidavit. Calida told Leonen he was not aware of this as he "was not able to read all the affidavits" of the convicts cited in the government's case against De Lima.
De Lima also took note of Calida's statements at the oral arguments in connection with the issue of whether or not the Biibid inmates are eligible to become state witnesses.
"During oral arguments, under questioning by Justice Leonen, the Solicitor General stated that the government had 'prosecutorial discretion' to use the witnesses against Petitioner. This is an admission that their witnesses are statutorily disqualified," De Lima said. (READ: Leonen questions qualifications of drug lords as state witnesses)
Calida had told the High Court he would answer these issues in their memorandum also due to be submitted to the SC. He and his media officers had yet to reply to Rappler's queries as of posting.
De Lima petitioned the SC for reliefs that, if granted, would give her temporary freedom.
The petition also asked the SC to rule on whether the charges filed before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) are valid, or if it's anti-graft court Sandiganbayan that has jurisdiction over the case as it involved alleged offenses committed in relation to her office at the time, the DOJ.
During the oral arguments, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had cited the importance of the High Court ruling that would settle the question of jurisdiction over government officials in drug-related cases. – Rappler.com