Leila De Lima is the ex-Secretary of Justice running for the Senate unDer the moribund Liberal Party of President Benigno Aquino III. Since De Lima is offering her services to the electorate, voters must be told about her track record as a government official.
De Lima began her public career as the head of the Commission on Human Rights where she did nothing outstanding enough to be remembered for.
It's De Lima's record as the secretary of Justice that invites scrutiny.
There are many occasions when a party is unjustly accused in court for an alleged criminal offense. To prevent injustice, the accused is permitted by law to seek relief from the department of Justice by filing a petition for review. If the petition is granted, the accused can readily seek the dismissal of the criminal case against him. Otherwise, the accused can take his case to the higher courts.
Unfortunately, the DoJ takes a long time to act on those petitions. Under De Lima's predecessors, it takes at least a year before the petition is resolved. When De Lima was the DoJ secretary, the wait lasted for many years. Many of those petitions were not acted upon even when De Lima left her DoJ post almost six years since she assumed office in 2010.
Since there are many lawyers in the DoJ assigned to work on those petitions, the undue delay in their resolution is inexcusable. Moreover, there are no complicated questions of law raised in those petitions. All that needs to be done is for a DoJ lawyer to go through the records of each case and recommend to De Lima if the petition is meritorious or not.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Thus, the delay of several years in resolving those petitions is already a crime in itself. As the secretary of Justice, De Lima should have cracked the whip to make her hirelings resolve those petitions with minimum delay. She did not do so.
Actually, De Lima can see to the speedy resolution of a case by giving it preferential attention. That's called selective justice.
Last year, the Iglesia Ni Cristo religious group accused De Lima of selective justice. According to the INC, De Lima was unduly interested in a criminal case which an INC minister filed against certain high-ranking INC officials. The INC was so angry with De Lima that its officials organized a protest rally, first outside the DoJ head office in Manila, and later at the Edsa-Shaw Boulevard intersection in Mandaluyong.
A number of traditional politicians like Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero who saw the INC rally as a means to court the votes of its members insisted on speaking there. They were accommodated probably out of courtesy.
Anyway, the rally enDed after President Aquino and INC leaders supposedly reached a Deal. Although the INC issued statements suggesting that the Aquino administration gave in to its Demands, the president's publicists insisted otherwise, but they did not explain how and why the standoff was resolved.
What the alleged Deal between the government and the INC was all about remains a big mystery today because De Lima avoids talking about it. She is also silent on what happened to the INC case. Since De Lima is running for high public office, she has a lot of explaining to do.
The management of penitentiaries is vested by law in the DoJ. It was during De Lima's watch as Justice secretary when the news media discovered that drug lords Detained at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa enjoyed numerous perks such as spacious, air-conditioned quarters with comfortable beds and the amenities of modern living, and had access to catered meals or restaurant food, hired entertainers, mobile phones, and even the internet. Under the law, prisoners are not entitled to those privileges. That is why they call the prison a penitentiary-it's not supposed to be very comfortable for the inmates!
Such brazen disregard of the law happened either because the special treatment of the drug lords had De Lima's blessings, or because De Lima was negligent and did not regularly monitor the prisons and their personnel. If De Lima paid regular, unannounced visits to the prisons, which she should be doing in the first place, this mockery of the justice system would not have occurred.
Last year, the Commission on Audit reprimanded the DoJ, under De Lima's watch, for illegally re-channeling funds earlier earmarked for a particular project and spending it on something else instead. As the lawyer of the Cabinet, the DoJ secretary be expected to comply with the law. De Lima failed in that regard.
In July 2015, when she was still Justice Secretary, De Lima joined a junket to Holland supposedly to attend a hearing in the arbitration case the Philippines filed against Communist China regarding Beijing's illegal expansionist operations in the West Philippine Sea. De Lima wasn't needed there. It's the solicitor general, not the DoJ secretary, who represents the Republic of the Philippines in international disputes. Sadly, the Filipino taxpayers ended up paying for De Lima's plane fare, allowances, and hotel accommodations. Would De Lima have gone to Holland if she, not the taxpayers, had to pay for all that?
De Lima accused outspoken presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte of committing human rights violations as Davao City mayor. If that is so, then why didn't De Lima file the corresponding criminal cases against Duterte when she was still the DoJ secretary? How come De Lima made the accusation only now, when Duterte is leading in the election surveys and her party's bet for president, Mar Roxas, is trailing at fourth place?
That belated accusation against Duterte only underscores the selective justice De Lima dispensed in the DoJ when she was its head. Besides, isn't the wastage of public funds by the ex-Justice secretary as bad as human rights abuses? As the ex-chief of the CHR, De Lima should know.
Source: The Standard