MANILA — Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima said on Monday there are government officials who may only be removed from office through impeachment proceedings, and there may be immunity from suit, but there is no such thing as immunity from investigation.
This was the reaction of De Lima in the wake of criticisms from the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on her pronouncements that she might order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate allegations of corruption against UNA stalwart Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son, current Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., through rigged Makati City projects.
De Lima stressed that due to the gravity of the allegations against the Binays, and considering that public funds are involved, it may be difficult for the Philippines’ premier investigative agency to turn a “blind eye” on the issue considering that the NBI’s core mandate is precisely to investigate.
“There is no such thing as immunity from investigation; there is an immunity from suit, may mga impeachable officials na they can only be removed through impeachment, but it doesn’t mean na hindi na po sila pwedeng imbestigahan. Pwedeng mag-positive, pwedeng mag-negative. Kung positive, depende din if it will fall under the grounds of impeachable offenses under the grounds set forth by the Constitution…,” De Lima said in an ambush interview.
“Pero yung sabihin na huwag ninyong imbestigahan, simply because impeachable official yan, wala pong ganun because there is no such thing as immunity from investigation. Hindi rin po pwede na pigilang imbestigahan ng isang ahensya na ang mandato ay precisely to investigate,” she added.
Likewise, De Lima said that she was surprised at the reaction of the Binay camp through one of the Vice President’s spokespersons, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco who has accused her of “nitpicking” at the opposition.
The DOJ chief said that the reaction was an “overreaction.”
When the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee that is holding hearings on the issue wraps up its probe, De Lima said, she anticipates that investigative bodies, such as the NBI, will be directed to do a further probe as was the case in the Blue Ribbon’s previous investigations.
”The question is whether to wait for that, or to motu proprio act now,” she added.
De Lima stressed that if the Binays have nothing to hide, there is no reason for them not to cooperate in any investigation.