MANILA – The Court of Appeals (CA) granted a petition questioning the Ombudsman’s dismissal of the complaint against former justice secretaries Vitaliano Aguirre and Menardo Guevarra for admitting state witnesses who were already convicted criminals.
In its 24-page ruling dated Nov. 21 and published online Friday, the appellate court granted a petition filed by former senator Leila de Lima questioning the Ombudsman’s dismissal of the complaint she filed against Aguirre and now Solicitor General Guevarra.
In her petition, De Lima accused the two of dereliction of duty for admitting state witnesses who were already convicted criminals, including those who testified against her in illegal drug charges.
The CA remanded the case back to the Ombudsman.
"(T)here was no valid reason for the Ombudsman to have refused to conduct an investigation on the administrative charges filed by petitioner (De Lima) against respondent. Its unjustified refusal is contrary to its mandate under
the law, and cannot be tolerated," the CA said.
In her 2018 petition, De Lima sought the Ombudsman's action against Aguire for admitting as state witnesses into the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program criminals already convicted in supposed violation of Republic Act 6981 or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.
The witnesses, convicted felons Jojo Baligad, Peter Co, Vicente Sy, Hans Anton Tan, Herbert Colangco, Noel Martinez, Froilan Trestiza, Engelberto Durano, Nonilo Arile, Jaime Patcho and Rodolfo Magleo, were among those presented by Aguirre in 2016 during hearings conducted by the House of Representatives Committee on Justice in relation to the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison when De Lima was still Department of Justice secretary.
In September, Guevarra questioned before the CA the decision of a Muntinlupa City court to acquit De Lima in a drug case.
“The OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) filed a petition for certiorari, not an appeal, with the Court of Appeals on 4 September 2023, on the ground of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the trial court judge,” Guevarra said in a statement then.
De Lima still has one more illegal drug case but is out on bail. (PNA)