Justice Secretary de Lima denies ‘downgrade’ of car theft raps
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday defended the state prosecutors who recommended the filing of a criminal case against brothers Roger and Raymond Dominguez, the alleged leaders of a car theft syndicate accused of abducting and killing car dealer Emerson Lozano.
Speaking with reporters, De Lima clarified that the prosecutors did not “downgrade” the complaint lodged by the victim’s family with the Department of Justice (DOJ) when they approved the filing of a case for car theft with homicide instead of the much serious charge of car theft with murder.
She also took exception to the accusation of the victim’s father, lawyer Oliver Lozano, that money could have changed hands in the supposed delay and downgrading of the case.
“There’s no downgrading,” De Lima stressed. “The fact that it’s not the same charge as expected by the complainant does not mean that there’s a downgrading.”
She said the resolution prepared by the investigating panel composed of Assistant State Prosecutors Amor Robles, Eden Wakay-Valdez and Bernardo Fernandez was “done appropriately.”
“It’s a complex crime of (car theft) with homicide and no bail was recommended. Effectively, it’s the same if it’s murder,” she said.
The justice secretary explained that since the preliminary investigation was the first level in criminal prosecution, state prosecutors cannot be accused of downgrading a case.
She said the use of the term “downgrading” in describing the result of a preliminary investigation was a “misnomer” since “it’s precisely the process whereby the prosecutor would determine what is the correct charge based on facts and based on the evidence adduced.”
“There can only be a downgrading once the case is reviewed in the higher level such as during a petition for review or a motion for reconsideration,” De Lima pointed out.
She said she was willing to order an investigation into Lozano’s allegation if he could provide proof that the state prosecutors had received bribe money in delaying the resolution of the case.
“With due respect, may I advice Attorney Lozano to go slow in making those accusations. If he has evidence about the alleged bribery, then by all means he should submit the evidence to me,” she said.
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