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De Lima defies ombudsman on GCTA probe
De Lima said Ombudsman Samuel Martires should direct his queries to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, stressing that she cannot, in her official capacity as senator, reply to a query that exclusively pertains to official business of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
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De Lima defies ombudsman on GCTA probe

Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - September 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Detained Sen. Leila de Lima refused to directly respond to the Office of the Ombudsman’s questions on why prisoners convicted of heinous crimes were included in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10592 or the law that gave good conduct time allowance (GCTA) benefits to prisoners.

De Lima said Ombudsman Samuel Martires should direct his queries to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, stressing that she cannot, in her official capacity as senator, reply to a query that exclusively pertains to official business of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“I therefore suggest that your good office require the explanation you are demanding from me from the office of Secretary Guevarra,” her three-page letter submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday read. 

She explained that the IRR of RA 10592 was issued in her official capacity as then DOJ secretary and “as an institutional output of the DOJ together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).”

“Whatever query you may have regarding the IRR therefore may be properly and officially answered by the DOJ and the DILG, being the institutions and agencies responsible for the implementation of said IRR,” she stressed.

De Lima, currently being held at the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center in Camp Crame, Quezon City on drug-related charges, noted that her current situation deprives her access to members of the joint Bureau of Corrections -Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BuCor-BJMP) panel that drafted the IRR, as well the DOJ’s relevant officers or offices that reviewed or passed upon the same. She said neither can she review records of their proceedings, “from which I can accurately derive the mindset or perspectives of the drafters that may shed light on the matter being inquired into per your letter.”

She gave assurance that as the final authority then as DOJ secretary, jointly with then DILG secretary Mar Roxas, who approved and signed the document, “I affirm its regularity, correctness and consistency in law.”

Justice Secretary Guevarra yesterday said they do not engage in “unproductive blame game.”

Guevarra said that instead of pointing blame at other people for the GCTA mess, they have instead taken the direction of making revisions on the IRR. 

“We at the DOJ won’t dwell on things that had come to pass, much less waste our time on an unproductive blame game,” Guevarra said.

“The revised IRR reflects our best interpretation of Republic Act 10592 as it was actually crafted, finalized and signed,” he added.

Guevarra believed that aside from the DOJ, other concerned institutions such as Congress should do their part to resolve the controversies surrounding GCTA. 

“The current DOJ has done its part. Let Congress do its own,” he added.

Guevarra and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año signed last Monday afternoon the revised IRR of the GCTA.

The two Cabinet secretaries also gave the Joint DOJ-DILG Committee 60 more days to complete its review and revision of the Uniform Policy and Guidelines on the computation and credits and allowances provided under RA 10592. 

De Lima had also questioned the supposed vagueness of Martires’ letter.

She said “whatever answer I may give you will not be issued in any official capacity, whether as former DOJ secretary or as senator of the republic. I could not therefore comprehend how my personal view on the matter can shed light on the query you are requiring me to answer.

“It is not clear in your letter whether you are requiring me to do so in my personal capacity or in my capacity as senator. Either way, I find no relevance in either capacities as a former secretary of justice to be able to officially annotate on the language of the IRR beyond what it provides in its provisions,” her letter read.

She likewise claimed Martires’ letter is unclear on whether she is being required to clarify the issue as a resource person, as a respondent in an administrative investigation or as a respondent in a criminal investigation. 

Letters to Leila and Mar

Last week, Martires issued letters to De Lima and Roxas, asking them to explain why the IRR of RA 10592 they helped prepare as Cabinet officials of the previous administration qualified convicts of heinous crimes for early release from prison when the law itself disqualifies them.

Meanwhile, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general Aaron Aquino claimed yesterday that corrupt police officers are meddling in the operations of the agency against suspected drug traffickers. – With Evelyn Macairan, Emmanuel Tupas

GCTA LEILA DE LIMA MAR ROXAS
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