Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday said the Department of Justice (DOJ) has the authority to resolve the drug trafficking complaint against Senator Leila de Lima and several others.
Aguirre was reacting to De Lima’s statement that the complaint should have been lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman, the agency mandated to investigate and prosecute erring government officials and employees.
Citing the law and jurisprudence, Aguirre said the DOJ and the Ombudsman have concurrent jurisdiction over a complaint.
“Kaya po iyan (drug trafficking charges) pwedeng dinggin ng DOJ, pwede ring dinggin ng Ombudsman,” he said in a radio interview.
He added: “Depende po iyan sa nag-file ng kaso. Kung ang nag-file ng kaso ay gusto sa DOJ, obligasyon po namin na dinggin ang preliminary investigation niyan.”
Aguirre also reminded De Lima that she herself entertained and launched a fact-finding investigation on the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam during her term as justice secretary.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), an attached agency of the DOJ, filed complaints against some senators, government officials, and associates of pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles before the Ombudsman from late 2013 to 2015.
However, De Lima said on Tuesday that while the DOJ may initially take cognizance of the case, it would still be eventually filed with the Ombudsman for another round of fact-finding investigation.
The senator was referring to the memorandum of agreement on investigation and prosecution of cases involving state officials and employees signed in 2012 by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and De Lima herself.
Under the agreement, the DOJ will immediately endorse to the Ombudsman for investigation cases within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan such as graft, bribery, and some cases involving government officials and employees with Salary Grade 27 or higher.
De Lima was under Salary Grade 31 when she was DOJ secretary from June 2010 to October 2015.
“Unless they have other reasons for filing it with the DOJ instead of the Ombudsman. Maybe because that is the domain of Aguirre, the master of fakery. Justice under Aguirre is fake,” she said in a statement.
Aguirre said the DOJ might form a panel composed of three to five prosecutors to handle the complaint against De Lima, who is accused of tolerating drug syndicates during her time as justice chief in exchange for funds for her senatorial campaign.
Filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, the complaint also listed as respondents former Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, high profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian and four other people.
The senator has repeatedly denied the charges. —ALG, GMA News