De Lima says Ombudsman request for explanation on GCTA rules ‘highly irregular’

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019   •   944

Senator Leila de Lima (File photo by Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday said she finds the request of the Office of the Ombudsman to explain the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Republic Act 10592, which increased the good conduct time allowance given to inmates, as “highly irregular.”

In a statement, De Lima confirmed she has received the letter of the Ombudsman directing her to explain or clarify in writing the IRR of the GCTA law.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires earlier wrote a letter, a copy of which was released to the media, requesting De Lima and Mar Roxas to explain the implementing rules they drafted for RA 10592.

READ: Ombudsman seeks De Lima, Roxas clarification amid probe on GCTA rules

De Lima was the Justice Secretary while Roxas was the Interior and Local Government chief when the law was enacted in 2013.

Martires wanted De Lima and Roxas to explain why the IRR they drafted only disqualifies from benefitting from the law those who are recidivists, who have been convicted previously twice or more times of any crime and those who failed to surrender before a court after being summoned.

The Republic Act 10592, which expanded the GCTA stated in the Revised Penal Code, excludes recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from its coverage.

“In this regard, this (Ombudsman) Office requests the submission, within three days from receipt hereof, of a written explanation/clarification on why the foregoing provision in the IRR does not contain the same disqualifications as enumerated in the last paragraph of Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 1 of R.A. 10592,” the letter read.

But De Lima noted the opening of the letter, which says the Office of the Ombudsman has “opened a fact-finding investigation on alleged irregularities in the implementation of the GCTA law.”

“Am I to be treated here as a resource person, a respondent, or a probable respondent?” she asked.

“Is this a set-up for me and Sec. Mar into taking the fall for the Sanchez-Faeldon scandal with which we have nothing to do?” she added.

De Lima said she finds this development “highly irregular,” and that she will have to consult her lawyers on the matter.

The senator was referring to earlier reports that convicted rapist-murderer, ex-Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez could be among the 11,000 convicts eligible for early release due to the new GCTA rule.

The news sparked public outrage and led to Sanchez’s aborted release, President Rodrigo Duterte’s dismissal of Nicanor Faeldon as Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief and the Ombudsman’s order to suspend several BuCor officials linked to the questionable application of the GCTA law.

A series of Senate hearing on the issue also revealed the purported ‘GCTA for sale’ and ‘hospital pass for sale’ at the national penitentiary.

The said schemes allegedly involving several BuCor executives purportedly allow moneyed inmates to get hospital referrals and other prison benefits on the basis of tampered medical record that would make it appear that they need to be transferred to less congested facilities for health reasons.

DOJ to file petition vs De Lima camp over public statements on drug trial

Robie de Guzman   •   November 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday said it will file a petition for contempt against the lawyers of detained Senator Leila De Lima for issuing public statements over the trial proceedings of her drug-related cases.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra argued this is in violation of the sub judice rule.

“We do not want to tackle with the media the merits of an ongoing case. Oo kasi that’s really an act that may lead you to be cited for contempt. Nakakaapekto yun sa appreciation of the evidence by the judge who alone has that power,” Guevarra said.

Prosecutor General Ben Malcontento said the petition is expected to be filed by next week.

Last week, De Lima’s legal counsel said in a statement that a prosecution witness testified in a hearing on Friday said he did not give money to help fund De Lima’s senatorial campaign. This, the lawyer said, was in contrary to his previous claim that he contributed money to the senator’s campaign in 2016.

Malcontento asserted that both camps are prohibited from discussing the merits of an ongoing case outside of courts.

“We will just do our legal battle in courts kasi sub judice yan e so we will not do a media war or media battle with lawyers of De Lima,” Malcontento said.

Lawyer Boni Tacardon, the spokesperson of De Lima’s camp, said they will not issue a comment on the plan of Malcontento to cite their team in contempt.

“The defense team opt not to make any comment at this time in deference to the advice of the court to refrain from making any public statements in relation to the case of Sen. De Lima,” Tacardon said in a message to reporters.

“We will just wait for the action of the DOJ and will reply appropriately,” he added.

De Lima has been in detention since 2017 over drug-related charges filed against her before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.

The senator is facing allegations of abetting illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison during her stint as Justice Secretary from 2010 to 2015. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Publication of Duterte’s SALN depends on the Office of the Ombudsman, Palace says

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

 MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang insists that the publication of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN depends on the Office of the Ombudsman.

This was the Palace’s response when asked whether the public will ever get to see the wealth records of the Chief Executive.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque advises the public to follow the regulations imposed by the Ombudsman on public access to SALN of government officials.

“May bago pong guidelines na sinusunod ang Office of the Ombudsman. Siguro po dahil po constitutional body ang Ombudsman, dapat pong sundin ang kanilang mga guidelines [The Office of the Ombudsman is following a set of guidelines. Since the Ombudsman is a constitutional body, their guidelines must be followed),” Roque stressed. 

Unlike in past administrations, the Ombudsman is no longer allowing the public to see copies of the SALNs.

It can only be provided to a requester if he or she is the declarant or the person who filed the SALN or the duly representative of the declarant, a court order is present or the request is made by the Ombudsman’s field investigation units. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Drilon asks Ombudsman to submit specific amendments to anti-graft law

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday urged the Office of the Ombudsman to lay down possible amendments it wants to be made to strengthen the country’s anti-graft law.

In a radio interview, Drilon said Ombudsman Samuel Martires should submit specific proposals to strengthen Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and make the law “more attuned to the present times.”

“Ang sinabi po niya ay 1987 pa ang batas sa Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees kaya akin pong hinihling sa Ombudsman, can we be favored kung ano ang proposed amendments sa batas para mapalakas ang ma-update ang batas?” he said.

“I suspect that the views of the Ombudsman reflects the thinking of the Supreme Court being a former member of the High Court and a Sandiganbayan justice,” he added.

Drilon issued the remarks after Martires said on Tuesday that he has stopped the conduct of lifestyle checks on government officials as he expressed misgivings on the existing provisions of the law.

“Nung umupo ako, pinatigil ko muna ang lifestyle check kasi matagal na ako may duda sa probisyon ng batas tungkol sa lifestyle check. Gusto ko i-propose sa Congress ng amendments sa 6713 kasi yug provisions there, Malabo, walang hulog sa logic,” Martires said.

 “Bakit ko pinatigil? What is living beyong your means? Iyong kumikita ng P50,000 a month, lives in a small house, nakaipon, bumili ng BMW na promo, zero interest, kayang-kaya niya hulugan, is he living beyon his means? I don’t think so. What he has are distorted values and distorted priorities,” he added.

Earlier this month, Martires also restricted access to the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth of public officials submitted to his office.

Drilon believes that addressing the concerns raised by the Ombudsman will be a big boost in the fight against corruption.

Corruption cases are brought to the courts, the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan, he added.

“Hence, it behooves Congress to listen to what the judiciary is saying and find out how it can amend the law and make it attuned with the times,” Drilon said.

“We will examine the existing law and we will look at measures to further strengthen the principle of transparency,” he added.

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