DOJ panel probing Robredo et al. defers tackling OSG role
Government prosecutors had deferred from deciding whether the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) can represent a unit of the Philippine National Police in the sedition complaint and other cases it filed against Vice President Leni Robredo and several others being linked to the “The Real Narcolist” videos.
The panel of prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) said its main task was determining probable cause in a criminal complaint. Anyone who wants to question the OSG’s authority may bring the issue to the proper forum, it added.
State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas, in a 14-page order dated Aug. 23 but released on Thursday, explained: “Despite the respective sound legal arguments propounded by the parties related to the authority and disqualification of the OSG, we are of the view that this preliminary investigation is not the proper forum to settle such issue.”
The body added that any decision it made now might be misconstrued as a “prejudgment” of the outcome of the preliminary investigation, hence it would be prudent not to make one on this “particularly contentious” issue.
Counsels of several respondents earlier questioned the presence of an OSG official as legal representative of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in the first hearing on the complaints of sedition, inciting to sedition, cyberlibel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal and obstruction of justice against Robredo and more than 30 other respondents.
The Vice President’s coaccused include Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, former Representatives Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada, several bishops, lawyers and other opposition figures.
The CIDG based its case primarily on the affidavit of Peter Joemel Advincula alias “Bikoy,” who claimed to be the narrator of the videos linking President Duterte, members of his family and close associates to drug syndicates.
The CIDG claimed the videos were part of “Project Sodoma,” which aimed to agitate the people into holding mass protests seen to cause the resignation or ouster of Mr. Duterte, and Robredo’s supposed takeover.
The OSG, meanwhile, asserted its role as the government’s lawyer tasked to assist government agencies such as the PNP in filing cases.
“Though we may resolve certain incidental matters … the issue of qualification of [the OSG] to represent a client is not one of them. Even if we do not decide the qualification of the OSG to appear on behalf of the CIDG, we would still be able to carry out our tasks as investigating prosecutors,” the government prosecutors said.
They added that as investigating prosecutors, they could only prohibit the appearance of counsels who have no authority to appear, are disbarred or are suspended from law. In a preliminary investigation, it is acceptable if the party arrives without representation by a counsel, the lawyers said.
Motions to suspend denied
The investigating panel also denied several motions for the suspension of the proceedings filed by some respondents who want to know first the specific offenses they are being accused of. These respondents also demand that the CIDG present all pieces of evidence it has against them.
The prosecutors explained that while it was up to them to determine the offenses to be filed based on the submitted evidence, the CIDG already said the pieces of evidence it submitted previously were already sufficient to support the complaints against the respondents.
Citing “fair play,” the government lawyers said their panel “shall only consider the evidence … filed and presented by the CIDG, and the respondents are therefore obliged only to controvert in their respective counteraffidavits the evidence … submitted by the … CIDG.”
The prosecutors warned the respondents it would not give them “the liberty of making piecemeal submissions of [their] evidence for to do so would unduly prolong the proceedings and be violative of due process.”
Respondents who have not filed their counteraffidavits have been given until Sept. 6 to do so.
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