De Lima wants probe into PH’s hosting of 2019 SEA Games

Robie de Guzman   •   December 18, 2019   •   1203

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday said she has filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the alleged irregularities that marred the country’s hosting of the recently concluded 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.  

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 274 directing the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an investigation on the reported organizational and administrative problems, as well as possible corruption, which affected the biennial sports meet.

She said reports on organizational problems surrounding the country’s preparation “betray a political dynamic that could translate to even greater problems in our sports programs in the future.”

“As we celebrate our athletes’ most successful campaign in recent memory, it is likewise important for our government to scrutinize our performance both as a host country and as patrons to our athletes,” she said in a statement.

De Lima said that prior to its opening on Nov. 30, the country’s hosting of the SEA Games has been beset by organizational issues, including early troubles with transportation and accommodations of teams from Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Cambodia, accreditation issues and lack of halal food for Singaporean delegation, and even problems with accreditation of media.

She also said that several volunteers for the SEA Games also aired their grievances over the alleged lack of system and coordination.

De Lima likewise noted the criticisms on the allegedly exorbitant 50-meter tall cauldron-type structure, which costs P50 million, for the lighting of the torch.

“Proper management and governance necessitate that we conduct an inquiry on the recently concluded SEA Games, especially after the problems encountered were duly documented by the mass media,” she said.

The lawmaker also underscored the need to scrutinize the organizational structure through which the country hosts international sporting events “to ensure that the funds will be properly given to institutions with the mandate and capability to properly utilize them.

“There is a need to investigate the existing sports legislation to ensure that support and funding are given to the agencies that have the proper mandate and that accountability lies even with private organizations, especially those who have access to government resources,” she said.

“While problems of disorganization, incompetence, and inefficiency can be resolved through institutional mechanisms, what cannot be countenanced is the scandalous probability that in the middle of all this disorganization and incompetence, certain high public officials still might have enriched themselves in the procurement of government contracts for the hosting of the games,” she added.

Officials of the Philippine Sports Commission and the SEA Games organizing committee earlier attributed the delays in the preparation of the biennial meet to the delayed passage of the 2019 national budget.

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)

De Lima camp assessing effect of Jaybee Sebastian’s death on her drug cases

Robie de Guzman   •   July 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima said her lawyers are now assessing the effects of the death of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian on the drug-related charges filed against her.

“My lawyers are still assessing the effect of Sebastian’s death on the cases against me, considering that he is or was the Duterte regime’s supposed ‘star’ witness,” De Lima said in a dispatch from Camp Crame on Monday.

“However, all testimonies coming from the inmates and some other so-called witnesses are all fabrications anyway. One less fabrication might be good in my case, but let us not forget all the other testimony fabrications. Whether the fabricator is dead or alive does not change the fact that their stories are all lies, and that the cases against me are all fake,” she added.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday said that Sebastian was among the nine high-profile inmates of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City who succumbed to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made the confirmation following a meeting with Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag on Monday afternoon. 

Bantag earlier refused to reveal the name of inmates who died from COVID-19 citing Data Privacy Act.

Guevarra has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation into the deaths of the inmates after Bantag informed him of the protocol in the event of an inmate’s death from coronavirus disease which include the mandatory cremation of the cadaver within 12 hours to prevent the spread of the infection.

Sebastian was the key witness in the alleged Bilibid drug trade and drug trafficking cases against De Lima which are currently pending before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.

The senator, who is one of the Duterte administration’s vocal critics, has been detained since 2017.

“The Duterte regime can have 100 live witnesses for all I care. But this still does not change the fact that the charges against me are absolutely false and fictitious. Conversely, the regime’s witnesses can all be dead, but this will not prevent Duterte and his operators from inventing other evidence to keep me in jail,” De Lima said.

“My point is, under normal conditions, these cases would have been dismissed a long time ago. But under conditions of a dictatorship where it is the dictator himself who has a very personal stake on the cases, and given the state of our justice system, I will not wonder if dead witnesses can still be made to rise from the grave and made to testify,” she added.

Meanwhile, De Lima raised alarm anew over the “dire conditions” existing in the country’s jails during the public health crisis, and even the pre-pandemic times.

“COVID-19 is not a joke, as the Duterte regime has treated it, especially in our prison system that hosts the perfect conditions for the spread of the virus,” she said.

“Regardless of who the dead are, whether free citizens or PDLs, they shall remain to be counted as the victims of the incompetence, indifference, and impunity of the Duterte Administration in dealing with the pandemic that has resulted in more suffering for our people, not to mention the devastation of the economy after months of lockdown but with absolutely nothing to show for it,” she added.

She then called on the Duterte administration to “step down, and hand over the reins of government” to Vice President Leni Robredo.

De Lima dismayed over court’s dismissal of motion to join Senate ‘hybrid’ sessions

Robie de Guzman   •   June 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima on Friday expressed dismay over the decision of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 205 to junk her motion seeking to join the “hybrid” Senate sessions and hearing while in detention at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame for drug-related charges.

“In denying my motion, the trial court may have failed to see what the Supreme Court has doctrinally acknowledged in the cases of Jalosjos and Trillanes that it is possible for a person deprived of liberty (PDL) to still legally pursue a profession or legitimately perform the functions of a public office as long as he or she can do it within the confines of his or detention cell,” De Lima said in a statement.

“As the Senate rules now allow for teleconferencing as a mode of participating in sessions and hearings in crisis or emergency situations or pandemic, I can easily do it if I will be provided with a laptop and internet connection, without need for me to get out of the PNP Custodial Center,” she added.

It can be recalled that on May 4, the Senate amended its rules to allow both physical and online attendance to legislative proceedings in a bid to prevent the possible transmission of novel coronavirus disease among its members and employees.

However, De Lima was still not allowed to participate in “virtual” sessions as Senate leadership claimed that she is “not under the chamber’s jurisdiction.”

The opposition senator maintained that disallowing her from taking part in online sessions, hearings, and meetings of the Senate “prevents her from fully performing her mandate as a lawmaker.”

“With all due respect to the Honorable Court, allowing my online participation in the Senate sessions will not negate the fact that I am still in prison. What the court permission can do however is to pay full respect to the mandate that I received from the Filipino people as a sitting Senator,” De Lima said.

“Please note that there is no civil interdiction imposed on me by any court, thus, there should be no unreasonable restrictions on my rights and legitimate interests,” she added.

She also asserted that she is still in “full possession” of her civil and political rights as her cases as still at the trial stage and has not been convicted of any crime.

De Lima filed her omnibus motion on June 1.

But in a Joint Order dated June 17, Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205, presided by Judge Liezel Aquitan denied De Lima’s motion, concluding that “the presumption of innocence does not carry with it the full enjoyment of civil and political rights.”

The court also said that the amendment in the Senate rules states that hearings and sessions via teleconferencing in the upper chamber are only allowed when there is force majeure or an emergency which may prevent senators from physically attending.

“De Lima is prevented to attend the committee meeting or hearings due to her detention. Detention is not a force majeure,” the court order read.

The court said that allowing De Lima to attend the Senate sessions, hearings, and meetings via teleconferencing within her place of detention is “no different from allowing her to attend there physically.”

“Allowing her to do so today would be tantamount to allowing her to participate even after the state of public health emergency,” it added.

De Lima said she is planning to file a motion for reconsideration.

De Lima, one of Duterte administration’s fierce critics, has been detained since 2017 over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade while she was Justice Secretary. She has repeatedly denied the charges.

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