Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed criminal complaints against former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and his successor, incumbent Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, for illegally admitting and continuing the unlawful admission, respectively, of 13 convicted felons as state witnesses in the trumped-up drug trade cases against her.
In a 22-page complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman last Oct. 28, De Lima charged Aguirre and Guevarra with negligence in prosecution, toleration of criminal offenses and violations of Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
She also charged Guevarra with gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct for continuing the failure of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute the convicts despite their public admission of their involvement in the illegal drug trading inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
“Based on the foregoing factual antecedents, former Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and Secretary Menardo Guevarra have violated Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code and grossly abused their power to favor convicted felons and protect them under the Witness Protection Security and Benefits Program (WPSBP),” she said.
“Secretary Guevarra has already been notified of the fact that the criminals convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude were illegally admitted as State Witnesses into the [WPSBP] of the DOJ. As such, the proper response was to remove them as beneficiaries. Still, he has refused and is unwilling to do so,” she added.
The 13 witnesses admitted into the Witness Protection Program (WPP) are Nonilo Arile, Jojo Baligad, Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Rodolfo Magleo, Vicente Sy, Hans Tan, Froilan Trestiza, Peter Co, Noel Martinez, Joel Capones, German Agojo, And Jaime Patcho, all of whom were convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude.
Their testimonies during the public hearings conducted by the House Committee on Justice in late 2016 in relation to the alleged proliferation of illegal drug trading inside the NBP resulted in the filing of criminal complaints against De Lima for alleged violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Under Section 10 (f) of RA 6981, persons previously convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude — such as murder and drug trading — are disqualified from becoming state witnesses.
“Given the explicit guidelines provided under Section 10 of the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, it is unfathomable how then-Secretary Aguirre and Secretary Guevarra could have missed the fact that the convicted felons are not qualified to become state witnesses,” she said.
“There is no room for any judgment call as their circumstance as convicts for crimes involving moral turpitude is beyond debate and is readily apparent,” she added.
De Lima also lamented how Guevarra failed to indict the 13 convicted criminals for illegal drug trading despite their unequivocal admissions and confessions under oath.
“The failure to file the necessary Information is a flagrant breach of duty on the part of the Secretary. Ultimately, he has committed gross neglect of duty as the Secretary of Justice,” she said.
Likewise, she claimed that partiality and hostility on the part of then-Secretary Aguirre was obvious from his statements and actions against her during the period of investigation in 2016.
“[His previous statements] show that then-Secretary Aguirre was manifestly partial to illegally place the convicted felons under the witness protection program in order to testify against me,” she said.
Last September, De Lima expressed dismay over the rejection of her motion seeking to disqualify 13 convicts as state witnesses in the trumped-up illegal drug trade case lodged before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206.
According to De Lima, Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo hastily decided to deny her Motion, thereby allowing the Prosecution to continue presenting the NBP inmates as state witnesses.
Considered as a leading prisoner of conscience, De Lima continues to face fabricated drug charges in both Muntinlupa RTC, Branches 205 and 206, but she has refused to enter any plea in what she considered as a sham trial based on orchestrated lies.