VP spokesman: Why is OSG focusing on sedition case?
MANILA, Philippines — Why this particular case?
Barry Gutierrez, the spokesperson of Vice President Leni Robredo, asked this question as he hit the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) again on Wednesday for its involvement in the sedition case filed against the country’ second-highest government official.
Gutierrez, who is a lawyer, the OSG, despite the thousands of cases filed by the government, opted to get involved in the sedition case filed against Robredo and several others over the release of the controversial Bikoy narcolist videos linking President Rodrigo Duterte’s relatives and allies to the illegal drug trade.
“Why are you meddling in this particular case? There are thousands of criminal cases that the government files every year against so many other people,” Gutierrez, speaking partly in Filipino, told INQUIRER.net on the sidelines of the Political Persecution in a Time of Democracy Forum in Quezon City.
“May of those cases involve plunder — big cases involving government funds, involving government power, etc. Why this particular case?” he added.
Gutierrez made these remarks after the OSG sought the permission of the Department of Justice to be allowed to represent police in the preliminary investigation of the sedition case.
The particular unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP) involved in this case is the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group – National Capital Region Field Unit.
On the other hand, some of the respondents of the case have already filed a motion with the DOJ seeking to disqualify the OSG from involvement in the case.
Potential conflict of interest
Gutierrez argued that, from a legal standpoint, the OSG could not get involved in the case.
According to him, the Revised Administrative Code mandates the OSG to represent the government at the appellate level — not preliminary investigation level — in criminal cases.
“I have never encountered an OSG official at the preliminary investigation level throughout my entire experience as a criminal lawyer,” Gutierrez said. “That’s one thing that they have to explain. Why is this case different? Why are you exerting time and effort that could be put in service to the public in representing a private complainant in this particular case?”
Gutierrez said that a conflict of interest might arise if the OSG were to be allowed to represent a private complainant.
In this case, the complainant is Peter Joemel Advincula, who initially introduced himself as the hooded man in the Bikoy videos but later recanted his claims and said that the videos were released as a part of a plot to oust the President.
“In this particular case, I just want to clarify, they are representing a private complainant,” Gutierrez said.
He noted that it was Advincula who signed a sworn statement — not the PNP.
“It was simply the affidavit of Peter Joemel Advincula,” Gutierrez said.
He explained how a conflict could arise by giving the following scenario.
If the case should be rejected at the preliminary investigation because the prosecution could prove that it has no merit, Advincula could take the case to the Court of Appeals.
At that level, it would fall on the OSG to represent the prosecution — that is, the DOJ.
“So how could they do that if at the preliminary investigation level it was Advincula whom they were representing?” Gutierrez said.
The DOJ panel has yet to release a decision on the motion to disqualify OSG from the case.
“You have to give the panel time to go over the arguments and make the ruling,” Gutierrez said. “Although for me, going over those who filed the motion, I think the panel will, hopefully, rule in favor of the motion to disqualify the OSG.”
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