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

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019   •   879

(L-R) former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has requested detained Senator Leila de Lima and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to explain or clarify in writing the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) that they drafted for the law which increased good conduct time allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires noted in his letter dated Sept. 6 that the Republic Act 10592 which expanded the GCTA excludes recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from its coverage.

Martires wants De Lima and Roxas to explain why the IRR they drafted only disqualifies the following from benefiting from the law:

  • an accused who is recidivist, as defined under Article 14 (9), Chapter III, Book 1 of the Revised Penal Code;
  • an accused who has been convicted previously twice or more than times of any crime; and
  • an accused who, upon being summoned for the execution of his sentence, has failed to surrender voluntarily before a court of law.

The Ombudsman requested De Lima and Roxas to submit a written explanation or clarification within three days 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.”

Earlier, Martires ordered the suspension of 27 Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials over the release of nearly 2,000 heinous crime convicts for good conduct credits. Said officers will be suspended for six months without pay for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.

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)

Pemberton to remain in detention pending appeal resolution – DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   September 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted of killing Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude, will not be released from detention yet pending a court’s resolution on the appeal filed by the victim’s family, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday.

 The DOJ said it has directed the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to wait for the court’s decision on the Laude family’s motion for reconsideration.

“The MR would have to be resolved first. The BuCor cannot preempt court action on the MR by prematurely releasing Pemberton,” DOJ Spokesperson Markk Perete said in a message.

The BuCor, for its part, said it will heed the DOJ’s directive and respect the court process. It also assured that Pemberton will remain detained at a facility in Camp Aguinaldo.

The Laude family, through their counsel Virgie Suarez filed a motion for reconsideration on Wednesday, arguing that Pemberton should not be granted an early release sans proof of his good behavior or participation in rehabilitation programs in jail.

“Simple ang mga ibigay lang nila sa korte ay mga computation I mean what can you see from the computation? Computation is just a computation it should not be taken ay yun na yun that computation is equated with the good conducts dapat may mga records,” she said.

Suarez also stressed in her appeal that Pemberton has been serving sentence “solo” in Camp Aguinaldo and no one can attest about his alleged good conduct.

  “What constitutes good conduct? Ano ba ang mga ginawa nito para sabihin mo mayroong good conduct? The court could easily scrutinize that but the court did not,” she said.

The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 in an order dated September 1 said Pemberton should be released over good behavior.

In 2014, Pemberton was sentenced six to 10 years in prison for homicide over the slay of Laude at a motel in Olongapo City. He has been held at a facility in Camp Aguinaldo under the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the United States and the Philippines.

The court credited to him a good conduct time allowance (GCTA) of 1,548 days or more than 4 years plus a total of 2,142 days in detention which amounts to more than 10 years of the maximum penalty imposed on him.

The court is set to hear the Laude family’s appeal on Monday, Sept. 7. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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