Calida denies Jaybee Sebastian deal, calls De Lima 'desperate'

MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida denied on Tuesday, April 18, the allegation made by detained Senator Leila de Lima that he struck a deal with high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian to pin down the senator.

In De Lima's memorandum submitted to the Supreme Court (SC), De Lima accused Calida of soliciting a testimony from Sebastian "in exchange for the latter's transfer back to the Maximum Security Compound of the New Bilibid Prison."

"Senator De Lima can do better than that. There is no truth to her allegations. Her absurd theories are desperate and futile attempts to veer the issue away from her involvement in narco-politics," Calida said in a statement.

Calling De Lima "delusional" and "desperate," Calida maintained that the charges against the senator are "not tainted with any element of political persecution."

Sebastian wrote in his affidavit that Calida went to Bilibid to talk to him, after which the follow-up questioning was conducted by Sandra Cam, a critic of De Lima.

In Calida's memorandum submitted to the SC, the Solicitor General did not discuss his supposed meeting with Sebastian inside the penitentiary. The issue was already raised during the oral arguments by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen but Calida excused himself from answering it, saying he was not aware that Sebastian had mentioned him in his affidavit.

Calida instead defended his presence during the hearings at the level of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno earlier asked Calida to clarify his functions as a Solicitor General, saying that it would offer answers to questions on whether or not there was persecution on the government's part.

Calida said the law authorizes him to "act and represent the Republic and/or the people before any court, tribunal, body or commission in any matter, action or proceeding which, in his opinion, affects the welfare of the people as the ends of justice may require."

The Solicitor General said the cited provision is broad and inclusive in such a way that it allows him to decide which proceedings he can participate in and which individuals he can support "to protect public interest and promote justice."

Calida also sees nothing wrong with the support he gave the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), the group which filed the complaint against De Lima before the DOJ. 

"The Solicitor General deemed it prudent at that time to provide much needed moral support to his former organization, the private complainant VACC, which was then pitted against De Lima, a powerful Senator of the Land," Calida's memorandum reads.

Calida adds: "The Solicitor General was not there to influence the conduct of the preliminary investigation with the end in view of having De Lima indicted. If that were his intention, the Solicitor General should have joined the preliminary investigation from its commencement up to its termination."

Petition should be dismissed

In the memorandum, Calida called on the High Court to dismiss De Lima's petition because it "suffers from fatal infirmities."

"De Lima prematurely filed the present petition, disregarded the principle of hierarchy of courts, violated the proscription against forum-shopping, and attached defective jurats," Calida said.

The defective jurats refer to the alleged falsification of the notarization on De Lima's documents. De Lima's lawyers already admitted that the notarization was not done face to face, but said the issue is mere "nitpicking" and does not warrant the attention of the SC.

Calida, however, believes otherwise. "The instant petition is considerned unsigned and produces no legal effect pursuant to Section 4, Rule 7 of the Rules of Court," he said.

Calida added that De Lima clearly violated the hierarchy of courts by running straight to the SC. According to the Solicitor General, De Lima should have waited for Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero to rule on her motion to quash before she could say that the SC is her last resort.

Calida said there is no "well-settled jurisprudence" that required Guerrero to resolve the motion to quash before she could issue an arrest warrant.

Calida noted that in De Lima's petition, the Senator asked the High Court "to enjoin Guerrero from conducting further proceedings until and unless the motion to quash is resolved with finality."

"De Lima got entangled in a paradox of her own making: she wants Judge Guerrero not to act and to act the same time," he said.

"It does not likewise help De Lima to allege political persecution to justify the present petition. The writs of certiorari and prohibition are directed against Judge Guerrero. Judge Guerrero does not belong to the executive branch, from which the political persecution is alleged to emanate."

You can read Calida's 92-page memorandum in its entirety below:

– Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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