In this file photo taken July 2, 2019, Solicitor General Jose Calida talks to reporters before the oral arguments on the plea for Writ of Kalikasan over some parts of the West Philippine Sea. Joy Patag
Respondents want OSG disqualified in PNP's sedition complaint
Kristine Joy Patag ( - August 19, 2019 - 3:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition personalities named as respondents in the police’s sedition rap asked the Department of Justice to disqualify the Office of the Solicitor General from appearing in the preliminary investigation of the complaint.

The camps of Otso Diretso bets Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada and Gary Alejano and former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te moved for the disqualification of the OSG during the ongoing preliminary investigation at the DOJ.

The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group tagged more than 30 people perceived to be critics of the government in a suit that accuses them of conspiring to oust President Rodrigo Duterte by releasing a series of anonymously posted videos alleging drug links.

During the preliminary probe on August 6, some of the lawyers of the respondents questioned the OSG’s authority to be involved in the proceedings.

READ: Respondents: Why is OSG at preliminary probe on sedition raps?

Urbano doctrine

The Free Legal Assistance Group, representing Diokno, Tañada and Te, raised that Supreme Court jurisprudence dictates that “the Office of the Solicitor General cannot appear in preliminary investigations.”

Citing Urbano v Chavez, FLAG said the SC stressed that the OSG can only participate in criminal cases once it reached the appellate courts.

“It is the office of the city, provincial or state prosecutor, as the case may be, and not the Office of the Solicitor General, which attends to the investigation and the prosecution of criminal cases in the first instance,” the SC said in the 1990 ruling.

FLAG said the doctrine was laid down to address the conflict of interest which might happen when the case reaches the Court of Appeals.

They added: “[I]f the OSG lawyers for a complainant public officer during a preliminary investigation, it effectively likewise fetters itself to a position that would prevent it from credibly performing its role as the People’s Tribune, should a private respondent’s conviction be challenged on appeal, and should the OSG decide at the time that the public interest is better served by reversing the conviction.”

Lawyer Arnold Labay, Alejano’s legal counsel, also raised the Urbano doctrine in the separate motion they filed.

“With all due respect to the OSG, its insistence on representing the PNP-CIDG-NCRFU in the preliminary investigation of the instant case is surely an arrogation by the office of a power it clearly does not have,” their motion read.

PNP-CIDG is not ‘People of the Philippines’

The respondents also argued that the OSG cannot invoke it because at the preliminary investigation stage, there is no “people” yet.

“The ostensible client of the OSG is the PNP-CIDG, which is not, by any stretch, the People of the Philippines,” FLAG said, adding that the PNP-CIDG is an office that has lawyers at its disposal.

ABS-CBN News earlier reported that personnel of the OSG might have been involved in preparing the complaint. This, despite the Palace already saying it has nothing to do with the case.

A look at the digital imprint or metadata of PNP’s witness, Peter Joemel Advincula, showed names of a senior secretary and lawyer from the OSG.

The OSG later clarified that the PNP-CIDG is its client and not Advincula.

The office also maintained that rendering legal service to the police is "well within the bounds of law," as it is “bound to serve its clients in any matter, which, in its opinion, affects the welfare of the State and the Filipino people, as the ends of justice may require.”

The panel of prosecutors gave the OSG five days to file their comment on the respondents' motions before it rules on their plea.

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