MANILA –Senators belonging to the Liberal Party (LP) on Monday urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to support the Ombudsman investigation on cases filed against their party mate, Sen. Leila de Lima.
The LP senators made this statement in response to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s statements that a warrant of arrest against De Lima would be issued “very soon.”
“We call on the Department of Justice to honor the rule of law and due process by supporting the Ombudsman’s investigation, as they should have when its fact-finding investigation commenced in November 2016,” the LP senators said in a joint statement.
They backed De Lima’s stand that the Ombudsman has primary jurisdiction over cases against public officers cognizable by the Sandiganbayan and not regular courts.
“Violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which is the DOJ’s case against Sen. De Lima, falls under ‘other offenses committed by public officials’ listed in the Sandiganbayan Law,” they added.
The senators also asked the public to be “vigilant” and to “cultivate a discerning eye” for truth and justice.
“We must be wary of the possibility that criminal cases are being used as political tool, propaganda, and smokescreen or distractions for the public,” they said.
They said that filing charges and issuing warrants of arrest without credible evidence or witness is illegal and unjust.
The senators also said that the stabbing of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian put “a serious cloud of doubt” on the veracity of his testimony and those of other inmates made to testify against De Lima.
The consolidated complaints against De Lima were filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), crime watchdog group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala and high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian in connection to her alleged involvement in illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she was still Justice Secretary.
The complaints filed against her include indirect bribery, violation of the Anti-Graft Law and violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act.
De Lima, however, said she remains hopeful that the Court of Appeals (CA) will issue a temporary restraining order against the preliminary investigation conducted by the DOJ.
She has so far filed two petitions before the CA to stop the DOJ from acting on the criminal complaints.
The neophyte senator has repeatedly said that the Ombudsman and not regular courts has jurisdiction over her cases.