De Lima sues Guevarra, Aguirre over state witnesses

November 07, 2018

DETENTION has not stopped Senator Leila de Lima from filing criminal complaints against former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and incumbent Secretary Menardo Guevarra, for allegedly illegally enrolling 13 convicted felons as state witnesses in the drug trade cases against her.

In a 22-page complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman last October 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 allegedly 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 Prisons (NBP).

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 are convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude.

“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.

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, De Lima stressed.

What convicts?

Justice Secretary Guevarra rejected the claim of De Lima that the prosecution violated the law when it used 13 convicts to testify in the illegal drugs charges lodged against her.

“As far as I know, no convicted person has been used as a state witness under Rule 119 against Sen. de Lima,” Guevarra said.

For his part, Aguirre refused to comment when contacted for his response to De Lima.

With Hector Lawas