No shortcuts in de Lima prosecution: Guevarra

MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday said he has yet to see the complaint filed against him and his predecessor, Vitaliano Aguirre III, by detained Senator Leila de Lima but denied that prosecutors violated rules covering state witnesses in going after the lawmaker, who is accused of allegedly soliciting funds regularly from drug lords operating behind bars at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

“I need to see the complaint (of de Lima) first. As far as I know, no convicted person has been used as a state witness under Rule 119 against Senator de Lima,” Guevarra told reporters in reaction to the complaint filed against him and Aguirre before the Ombudsman last October 29.

The case against de Lima involves numerous transactions she allegedly entered into when she was still Secretary of Justice with known drug lords serving sentences at the NBP, which is under the Bureau of Corrections, an agency under the DOJ.

Some transactions, including supposed donations for her senatorial campaign, were allegedly coursed through her lover and aide, Ronnie Dayan.

“What I know is that certain persons were covered under the WPP (Witness Protection Program) during the legislative inquiry into the alleged illegal drug trading inside the NBP, upon recommendation of the legislative committee. In any event, that was in 2016, and I was not even with the DOJ at that time,“ Guevarra noted.

A portion of the said provision of the rules on criminal procedure requires that an accused may become a state witness only if among other things, he/she has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.

The said rule also requires that the court is satisfied that there is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused, whose discharge is requested; there is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed except the testimony of the said accused; the testimony of the said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points, and that the said accused does not appear to be the most guilty.

Under the rules, evidence in support of the discharge of the state witness automatically form part of the trial and if the court denies the motion for discharge of the accused as state witness, his sworn statement shall be inadmissible as evidence.  Benjamin Pulta/