Dispatch from Crame No. 367: On yet another malicious falsehood being spread in social media – Sen. De Lima’s alleged connection to the Estepa couple


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Recently, a misleading and outrightly false story has been going around linking my name to the Estepa couple, who have become the subject of a viral video arising from a parking violation and a resulting argument between them and traffic enforcement authorities.

While I will leave it to them to respond to reactions regarding the incident — and they ought to be held accountable for their inexcusable behavior — it is necessary to set the record straight regarding my alleged connection to them.

As with any falsehood and malicious propaganda, there is some truth buried in a pile of lies and innuendos.

Here is the truth: As Secretary of Justice, I did have occasion to work with Atty. Estepa, who was, at the time, a member of the Prosecution Staff reporting to the Office of the Prosecutor General. He was recommended for such assignments by responsible officials in the National Prosecution Service (NPS), especially his direct superiors.

What is absolutely not true is that there is any favoritism involved in those assignments or in his or his wife’s appointment and/or promotion.

First of all, as in any organization, assignments are given to members of the NPS who are believed to merit such assignment, not just based on skills and experience, but also on what is needed of the work to be done. If I remember correctly, certain sensitive or high-profile assignments given to Atty. Estepa were based on the recommendations of the senior officials who are directly responsible for his and other prosecutors’ work. They don’t report directly to the Secretary of Justice on an individual basis, but as a team. Hence, the insights and inputs of the senior members of the team, and especially the Prosecutor General, are given much weight. “Favoritism”, as it is used in the malicious comments, played no part in it. The only consideration is the demands and exigencies of the service.

Secondly, all appointments in the NPS, by law, goes through a strict selection process administered by the NPS Selection and Promotions Board (SPB). It is the SPB that evaluates each candidate and recommends candidates for appointment to the President through the Secretary of Justice. Candidates, therefore, go through at least 2 screening processes. One at the NPS level, and one at the OP level. Favoritism plays no part in it.

Finally, to imply that Atty. Estepa, or any other prosecutor, is assigned to cases because of favoritism is a disservice to the members of the NPS who have had to take on additional assignments, which entail more hours of work without any additional remuneration. These assignments mean they sacrifice their own personal time, and often their own personal resources.

They also expose themselves to exactly this type of negative attention: they can become victims of politics, villified for doing their jobs, especially when rich, powerful or influential people are involved. While prosecutors have no control over which complaints are filed against whom by complainants, cases are filed with the courts only when the evidence gathered warrant it. That is, at least during my time as SOJ. We were all doing our jobs in accordance with the truth and the Rule of Law.

So I ask the people to not to jump to conclusions or believe unfounded accusations.

Instead, ask questions about issues that really matter. Like what is this administration really doing in the War on Drugs? Where is Peter Lim and when will he face charges against him? Why is it that big-time drug lords, and those responsible for large shipments of drugs are never held accountable?

These are the truths we have to search for. And though it does matter that we make sure that merit and competence, and not favoritism, is what gets people appointed in the public service, it is also, if not more, important to make sure that laws are enforced equally, and without fear or favor.

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
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