Sen. Leila M. de Lima today asked Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to inhibit himself and his team of prosecutors from hearing the four cases brought up against her to allow an objective and independent investigation on said cases.
“Considering the partiality, bias and lack of objectivity of the Secretary of Justice and the panel of investigating prosecutors in these cases, these officials should inhibit themselves and instead refer the cases to the Office of the Ombudsman,” De Lima said.
De Lima, the subject of complaints filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, former National Bureau of Investigation Directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala, and convicted kidnapper Jaybee Sebastian, maintained that the Office of the Ombudsman not only has the exclusive authority and sole jurisdiction but also the impartiality to investigate the charges against her.
Citing the 1989 Ombudsman Act, the former justice secretary pointed out that the charges leveled against her as a public official clearly fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Ombudsman.
“This duty to forward the case to the Office of the Ombudsman even acquires pragmatic value, considering that the DOJ Secretary himself committed to still submit to the Office of the Ombudsman the result of the investigation in these cases,” she said.
“All these cases, including the one lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman, anchor their charges on a common allegation that respondent Senator de Lima is involved in the illegal drug trade in the country,” she added in her petition.
The senator also sought to suspend the preliminary investigation and asked for the inhibition not only of Secretary Aguirre, an appointee of President Duterte, her known nemesis, but also his team of prosecutors from hearing these four cases.
“The integrity of the investigation in these cases appears to be seriously tainted and deeply compromised as no less than the President and the DOJ Secretary had prejudged the guilt of respondent Senator de Lima,” her petition said.
“In this environment, where the President and the DOJ Secretary have complete control and supervision over the work of their subordinates at the DOJ, it is a foregone conclusion that the conduct and the results of the investigation will not be impartial and objective,” it added.
De Lima explained that the various public pronouncements of the President and Secretary Aguirre prejudging her guilt are “indubitably implicit instructions to the investigating prosecutors to file cases in court regardless of actual evidence.”
“The importance of an independent and impartial investigation, forming part as it is of the fundamental right to due process, cannot be overemphasized,” she said.
De Lima argued that Aguirre who has spent so much time gathering trumped-up evidence against her and pronouncing her alleged guilt in several media interviews has basically acted as her “special prosecutor and personal persecutor” and has ultimately prejudged her.#