De Lima appeals Ombudsman’s dismissal of her case vs Guevarra

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Leila de Lima on Saturday appealed before the Court of Appeals (CA) the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman which dismissed the administrative complaint she lodged against Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra over the use of convicts as state witnesses.

In 2018, De Lima filed the gross neglect of duty complaint against the Justice Secretary for using convicted drug lords imprisoned at the New Bilibid Prison as state witnesses against her instead of prosecuting them. De Lima said this was a violation of the Witness Protection, Security and Benefits Program (WPSBP) Law.

However, the Ombudsman junked the complaint, saying the WPSBP does not apply if the crime is  “committed in prison and the only witnesses are convicted criminals.”

In her appeal before the CA, De Lima said the Ombudsman “invented” the exemption in the WPSBP.

“The WPSBP Law prohibits those convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude from becoming state witnesses. The Bilibid convicts turned state witnesses against De Lima by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under former Secretary Aguirre, and continued by Guevarra were convicted of heinous crimes, including kidnapping, murder, drug trading, among others,” said De Lima.

The senator, who is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame over drug charges, also called the action of the Office of the Ombudsman as “absurd and ridiculous” for failing to continue with the investigation against Guevarra.

According to the Office of the Ombudsman, it cannot continue its probe because Guevarra refused to submit the DOJ’s certification on the status of the convicted criminal witnesses under the WPSBP. Guevarra told the Ombudsman that such data is “confidential.”

“[I]f this kind of culture and thinking in the Ombudsman are allowed to fester, the constitutional office might as well be abolished for having been neutered by its very own officials,” said De Lima in her appeal.