Senator Leila M. de Lima today urged the Office of the Ombudsman to spare her from explaining the rules for the early release of prisoners under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law and instead ask the agencies responsible for its implementation.
In a letter to Ombudsman Samuel Martires, De Lima advised him to direct his queries to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), notably on the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the GCTA Law.
“[I] would like to clarify that I am no longer the Secretary of Justice. I am now a Senator of the Republic. I cannot in my official capacity as a Senator reply to a query that exclusively pertains to official business of the Department of Justice whose present Secretary is Menardo Guevarra,” she said in her three-page letter.
“Whatever query you may have regarding the IRR therefore may be properly and officially answered by the DOJ and the DILG, being the institutions and agencies responsible for the implementation of said IRR,” added the former justice secretary.
Last Sept. 6, Martires sent a letter to De Lima asking her to explain within three days to clarify a certain provision in the IRR of the GCTA Law, which made headlines following the abuses of granting GCTA to unqualified or undeserving convicted inmates by recently-resigned BuCor Chief Nicanor Faeldon and his lackeys.
The Ombudsman sent a similar letter to former Interior and Local Secretary Mar Roxas, who, along with De Lima, were among those who approved and signed the IRR on Republic Act (RA) 10592 or the GCTA Law.
The lady Senator from Bicol explained that she cannot reply to Martires’ queries because the IRR of GCTA Law was not issued in her personal capacity or her capacity as a sitting Senator of the Republic.
“It was issued during my time in my official capacity as the Secretary of Justice and as an institutional output of the Department of Justice together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government,” she said.
“Given my current situation, I do not have access now to the members of the joint BuCor-BJMP panel that drafted the IRR and the DOJ’s relevant officers or offices that reviewed or passed upon the same, as well as the records of their proceedings,” she added.
However, De Lima stressed that “as the final authority then as Secretary of Justice, jointly with then DILG Secretary Mar A. Roxas, who approved and signed that document, I affirm (the IRR’s) regularity, correctness, and consistency with the law.”
De Lima, however, maintained that she found no relevance in her capacities even as former justice secretary to be able to “officially annotate” on the language of the IRR beyond what it provides in its provisions.
In addition, she also pointed out that it was unclear to her whether she was asked to clarify the IRR of the GCTA Law as a resource person, as a respondent in an administrative investigation, or as a respondent in a criminal investigation.
“I presume it is not as a resource person because I am being required to reply within a time period which is not usually a discourtesy that is addressed to resource persons,” she said.
If she is being required to clarify as a respondent in an administrative investigation, De Lima said that under Section 21 of RA 6770, or The Ombudsman Act of 1989, the Office of the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction or authority over her as a sitting senator.
“Finally, if I am being required to clarify as a respondent in a criminal investigation, I have decided to first wait for a subpoena on a criminal complaint duly filed with your office,” she added.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, earlier said that her colleagues in Congress should not blame the passage of GCTA Law, nor its IRR. The latter merely followed the law.