Leni notes 'pattern' of DOJ tagging critics, opposition as drug protectors

Vice President Leni Robredo met women from resettlement sites in Pandi, Bulacan, for the Laylayan Women's Rally, an initiative of her office to celebrate the strength of women at the fringes of society in line with Women's Month. Office of the Vice President

Leni notes 'pattern' of DOJ tagging critics, opposition as drug protectors

Audrey Morallo (Philstar.com) - March 27, 2018 - 9:40pm

VP says drug allegations 'not in Osmeña's character'

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday noted what she called a pattern of the Department of Justice labeling people opposed to the administration's positions and policies as drug protectors.
Speaking during an interview at the Istorya ng Pag-asa Cebu City Gallery Opening, Robredo said that the DOJ should dispense justice and not vindictiveness, which could erode the trust of the public in the government office.
"I am saddened by what’s happening. It seems it's becoming a pattern in which anyone who opposes any announced policy or anybody who disagrees with decisions is tagged as 'drug protectors,'" the vice president said in Filipino.
"This is becoming a pattern," the vice president, who was asked to stop attending Cabinet meetings in late 2016 for taking positions contrary to that of the administration, said. Robredo eventually resigned as Housing chief.
Robredo's comment came after she was asked to react to an accusation by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is allegedly involved in the trade of illegal drugs.
Aguirre said that the DOJ has a witness who submitted an affidavit that tagged Osmeña — who was criticized in 2016 for offering "rewards" to police officers who kill drug suspects — as a protector of drug lords.
The DOJ chief said that the witness came out last year but he did not disclose the information as his office was still building the case. Once the information is verified, the National Bureau of Investigation will file charges against Osmeña, who has close ties to the vice president and her late husband, according to the Justice secretary.
Osmeña's predecessor and political rival Michael Rama had also been tagged as a drug protector, an allegation the former mayor has vigorously denied.
The vice president contrasted Osmeña's impending case to the dismissal of drug charges against presidential buddy Peter Lim and self-confessed drug trafficker Kerwin Espinosa and the provisional admission of pork barrel queen Janet Lim Napoles to the government's witness protection program.
Espinosa is among the government's witnesses against Sen. Leila de Lima, an administration critic who has been in detention since February 2017 on drug charges she has yet to be arraigned for. The Palace has said that de Lima is not in jail for opposing the Duterte administration's policies but for her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.
"We see individuals who have been in public service for long and who have not been accused of anything like this being tagged as 'drug protector' simply because they have opposing views," Robredo said of Osmeña. 
Osmeña has been critical of Aguirre, whom he has accused of interfering in the city's tax case against a mall developer and a bank.

Robredo losing confidence in DOJ

The vice president said that she is slowly losing trust and confidence in the DOJ and Aguirre because of its recent string of decisions favoring guilty individuals over innocent ones. 
Robredo also urged the DOJ to be careful with its accusations and ensure that these have bases. They should file a strong case before a court if they have evidence to prove their allegation, she added, as she stressed that such accusations were not in the character of the Cebu City mayor to commit.
She said that she hopes that the DOJ understands well its responsibility of ensuring that justice is served and asked the agency to refrain from using its powers for "personal vindictiveness."
Last week, Osmeña threatened to file disbarment and graft cases against Aguirre over allegations that the justice chief interfered in the tax evasion charge filed by Cebu City against SM Prime Holdings and BDO Unibank.
Aguirre ordered the transfer of the cases against SM and BDO executives to the DOJ from the Cebu prosecutor's office supposed because the companies could "hardly expect fairness" since the people of the city would support their mayor. 
Aguirre has been twitted in the past for, among other unfounded accusations, claiming that members of the political opposition had met in Marawi before the May 2017 siege by the Maute local terror group.
A photograph that he claimed was proof of the meeting turned out to have been taken in the Visayas during the 2016 election season.

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