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CA Reverses Ombudsman Decision Junking De Lima’s Complaint vs Aguirre, Guevarra

The Court of Appeals (CA) has granted former Senator Leila de Lima’s petition challenging the Office of the Ombudsman’s 2019 dismissal of her complaint against ex-Justice secretaries Vitaliano Aguirre II and Menardo Guevarra.

In a Nov. 21 verdict, the court’s Special 17th Division reversed and set aside the Ombudsman decision and sent the case back to the said office for proper disposition.

The CA ruled that there was no valid reason for the Ombudsman to refuse to conduct a probe on the administrative charges filed by De Lima, who accused Aguirre and Guevarra of graft, gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct, among other violations, for the alleged illegal admission of 11 convicted felons to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) witness protection program (WPP).

De Lima had argued that under the law, individuals convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude cannot be admitted to the WPP.

“The Court holds that the Ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion when it dismissed the administrative complaint outright based on inapplicable exceptions,” the CA decision read.

The appellate court said the Ombudsman deviated from its own rules of procedures, a violation of procedural due process.

In 2016, then DOJ chief Aguirre granted the felons immunity when they testified in a congressional inquiry on the alleged proliferation of the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during De Lima’s term as justice secretary.

Their testimonies led to the filing of drug-related complaints against De Lima, which eventually resulted in her arrest and detention for six years and nine months. De Lima noted that despite the convicts’ confessions that they themselves committed illegal drug trading, they were not included in the series of information filed against her

De Lima said Guevarra — who succeeded Aguirre as DOJ secretary in 2018 — should also be held liable, as he continued the convicts’ admission to the WPP.

The former opposition senator was released from the Philippine National Police custodial facility on Nov. 13 after she posted bail for her remaining drug case.

Source : CNN Philippines