“Magnificent 7” visits Senator Leila de Lima

UNTV News   •   May 23, 2017   •   3778

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MANILA — Senator Leila de Lima’s visitors on Monday discussed several issues with her, such as her request to attend sessions in the Senate.

The visiting lawmakers are part of the minority group in the House of Representatives.

Caloocan representative Edgar Erice said Senator De Lima trusts that Senate President Koko Pimentel will help her in her bid to be allowed to attend sessions in the Senate.

“As the father of Senate, he might grant her request to attend and vote on important issues like death penalty, and tax reform,” he said.

Some lawmakers see nothing wrong with the request of the senator.

Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said, “That’s also the rights of a sitting senator, even the Senate can take cognizance of that. But it’s the decision of the Senate president.”

De Lima sent a letter last May 11 to Pimentel asking for support and assurance that her request will be granted, as his co-senator, and election client.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre  maintains that De Lima cannot be allowed to attend the Senate sessions because she is detained for an illegal drug case. Aguirre is determined to block it should the Senate decide otherwise.

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Meanwhile, Pimentel leaves the decision to the court, citing that a Senator cannot vote when he or she is not physically present in the plenary.

“The rules require physical presence. It is in the jurisprudence that the detention says that you accept reality that if you are detained you cannot do some things.  So let’s wait and see. But through motions, the courts can be convinced of having a new way of looking at a circumstance,” Senator Koko Pimentel said. — Grace Casin | UNTV News and Rescue

Duterte appoints resigned DOJ Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II to NAPOLCOM

Marje Pelayo   •   January 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque confirmed the appointment of former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II as the new Commissioner of the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM).

He will represent the private sector.

Roque said Aguirre’s services as secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ) during the early years of the Duterte Administration “bodes well in his new position to make the police service competent, effective, credible and responsive to our people’s needs.”

In April 2018, Aguirre resigned amid controversies in the justice department.

READ: Pres. Duterte accepts Aguirre’s resignation

Among these include the P50-M bribery scandal of Bureau of Immigration (BI); the submission of alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles under witness protection program and the dismissal of charges against self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa and alleged drug lord Peter Lim.

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)

Aguirre denies links to ‘pastillas scheme’

Robie de Guzman   •   September 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday denied allegations that he is the protector of the group behind the so-called pastillas scheme in the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

During the resumption of the Senate probe on the issue, Aguirre refuted media practitioner Ramon Tulfo Jr.’s claims, saying it was only fueled by “vendetta and dirty politics.”

Aguirre said Tulfo’s accusations against him might be connected to the time when he was still DOJ secretary and he denied the latter’s request to consolidate his libel cases.

Aguirre served as Secretary of Justice from 2016 to 2018.

In March this year, Tulfo accused Aguirre of involvement in the pastillas scheme after he placed the father and son tandem of Maynardo and Red Mariñas to head the visa upon arrival system in the country. Tulfo also claimed that a chopper regularly delivers kickback from the scheme to Aguirre’s hometown in Mulanay, Quezon.

The former secretary, however, denied Tulfo’s allegations.

“Alam mo, kapag ikaw sumulat ng anuman o mag-akusa ng anuman na wala kang ebidensya, malicious yan, Tulfo!” Aguirre said during the hearing.

“Kung totoo ‘yang sinasabi mo, hindi ba yan Mr. Tulfo na dapat yan ay ililhim mo? Para walang makakitang ibang tao. Pero kabaliktaran, ginagawa mo akong isang istupidong Department of Justice secretary na ipagwawadwaran ko pa ang mga panunuhol sa akin,” he added.

He also reasoned that he already resigned from the post when the issue surfaced.

“As such, I am bereft of power or authority to control, much less head, a syndicate operating in the BI,” he said.

Aside from Aguirre and Tulfo, whistleblower Allison Chiong also attended the probe.

He told senators that high-ranking officials including those in the travel control and enforcement unit and terminal heads at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport who are allegedly involved in the scheme have yet to face charges.

“Sa immigration po kasi, itong term na boss, napaka parang broad… Oh halimbawa ah, ‘sabi ng mga boss, i-check niyo daw muna sa loob kasi nagmamanman ang NBI diyan. So lahat ang checking sa loob. Wala po dito ‘yun. Wala dito ‘yung mga boss,” he said.

Nineteen Immigration officers allegedly linked to the pastillas scheme are currently facing charges filed by the National Bureau of Investigation at the Office of the Ombudsman.

The modus was called pastillas, derived from a Filipino sweet and sticky dessert, because the bribe money that some personnel receive were concealed inside rolled up papers.

The scheme allegedly takes advantage of Chinese casino high-rollers and offshore gaming workers who wish to be escorted to dodge the immigration screening process for a fee.

According to Senator Risa Hontivers, chairperson of the Senate committee on women, children family relations and gender equality that has been conducting the probe, the panel will study recommendations to implement a reshuffle in the Immigration bureau, and suspend officers who are facing charges as well as those involved in the visa upon arrival system. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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