8 legal stories to keep an eye on in 2018
MANILA, Philippines – The year 2017 saw a senator jailed, a plunder defendant freed, and a former president charged.
We welcome 2018 with other high-stakes cases, but we won't forget the unresolved cases from the previous year. (READ: Philippines' 12 biggest cases of 2017)
Here are 8 legal stories you need to watch this year:
Were there anomalies in the P3.5-billion purchase of the Dengvaxia vaccine?
Gabriela party, representing families of children who were given the dengue vaccine, filed a graft complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against former president Benigno Aquino III and former health secretary Janette Garin.
Gabriela's complaint accuses Aquino, Garin, and other officials of negligence in failing to properly assess the safety and efficiency of Dengvaxia.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), meanwhile, is looking into whether there was corruption.
2. Disbursement Acceleration Program
The Office of the Ombudsman has yet to resolve the appeal over the Aquino administration's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Will Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales affirm her earlier decision to charge only former budget secretary Florencio Abad, or will she consider the appeal and file charges against former president Aquino, too?
Before 2017 ended, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the NBI to investigate Aquino over DAP.
3. Leila de Lima
When the Department of Justice (DOJ) finishes amending its information in the drug charges against Senator Leila de Lima, her trial can finally begin at the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Will the convicts' testimonies against De Lima stand in court? (READ: Inside Bilibid: Resurgence, resignation, 'recanting')
The senator said she's prepared to "hear lies and more lies" during the trial.
4. Bong Revilla
Former senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr lost his bid for outright dismissal of his case after the Sandiganbayan 1st Division denied his motion. Revilla, one of the accused in the pork barrel scam, must now present his own evidence in his plunder case.
During the prosecution's presentation in 2017, Revilla's lawyers argued on the basis of technicalities and pointed out that the evidence do not constitute the crime of plunder.
It would be interesting to see whether the Revilla legal team would continue that strategy, or change tactics in 2018.
5. Gigi Reyes
The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division wrapped up the bail hearings of Gigi Reyes, former senator Juan Ponce Enrile's co-defendant in a plunder case stemming from the pork barrel scam.
During the hearings, whistleblower Benhur Luy said he neither personally delivered kickbacks to Reyes, nor did he see her signature on a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for Enrile's pork barrel.
Ruby Tuason, who allegedly served as middleman between Janet Lim Napoles and Enrile, also reiterated that in her testimony but she had difficulty recalling the specifics of transactions.
After the court's Special 5th Division granted bail to former senator Jinggoy Estrada, it's worth watching what the 3rd Division will do with Reyes' petition.
6. The Marcos cases
Ilocos Norte 2nd District representative and former first lady Imelda Marcos is set for judgment at the Sandiganbayan for graft cases spanning 26 years.
Apart from her cases, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) must also be monitored. How will it proceed with the bulk of civil suits against the Marcoses and their cronies, especially after the possibility of a compromise agreement was floated by none other than President Rodrigo Duterte himself?
7. Nicanor Faeldon and the P6.4-billion shabu shipment
The DOJ panel cleared former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment case, but he's not off the hook yet.
The Office of the Ombudsman created its own panel to investigate the issue, targeting Faeldon and other Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials. The Ombudsman also took note of the so-called Davao Group, whom fixer Mark Taguba pointed to as the ones pulling strings at the BOC.
The NBI is also back in the war on drugs, so we'll see whether it will take on a proactive role in reinvestigating the shipment and Faeldon's role in the controversy.
8. Joel Reyes
Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes' conviction for one count of graft is under appeal at the Sandiganbayan. He was convicted in August 2017 for the anomalous issuance of mining permits in Puerto Princesa.
Since the conviction is under appeal, Reyes enjoys temporary liberty, especially after he was freed by the Court of Appeals (CA) over the murder of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega.
Will the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division affirm his conviction, or acquit him and truly set him free?
Reyes is also facing 36 counts of graft over P1.5 billion worth of anomalous projects in Palawan, allegedly part of the Malampaya fund scam. – Rappler.com