The administration is scrambling to cure a defect it knowingly created.
The Secretary of Justice confirmed today that State prosecutors are planning to amend or revise the drug charges that the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed against Senator Leila De Lima.
According to Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, prosecutors from his office are studying the position that Solicitor General Jose Calida averred during the oral argument of the De Lima petition before the Supreme Court en banc.
Calida posited the view that the lady senator should be charged with violating Section 26 of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which pertains to conspiracy to import, sell or trade illegal drugs instead of illegal drug trading under Section 5 of the law which is the case that the DOJ actually filed against her.
Incidentally, this major disagreement between the two principal legal offices of the executive branch, the DOJ and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), as to what cases should De Lima be prosecuted with is one of the issues raised in her petition.
The contention is that the stunning discrepancy in the understanding, interpretation and actual position of the two offices of the government violates the constitutional right of the senator to be informed of the true nature and cause of the charges filed against her.
Former Solicitor Florin Hilbay, the lawyer who argued on behalf of De Lima during the oral argument before the Supreme Court, quickly blasted the DOJ’s plan to amend the charges.
“Let’s be honest here. Aguirre and Calida, even after ‘winning’ their case in the Supreme Court, still have no idea what case to bring against Sen. de Lima. Short of screaming up and down, we emphasized this problem before the honorable members of the Supreme Court,”
Hilbay said that the plan to amend the charges already filed and pending before the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa only confirms that the said charges are inherently flawed, legally defective and fake.
“The DOJ’s plan to amend the charges against De Lima only clarifies and confirms even more what her lawyers told the Supreme Court, and what the dissenting justices pointed out: THE CHARGES ARE FAKE,”
The camp of De Lima said that it will file a motion for the reconsideration of the ruling denying her petition. This is an available remedy granted by the rules of court to the petitioner.
Without preempting the legal strategy of De Lima’s battery of heavyweight lawyers, this move by the DOJ can actually be used in their favor in order to make some of the nine justices who voted to deny and dismiss her petition to reconsider their votes.
The planned amendment of the information vis-à-vis the strongly-worded, elucidating and scholarly-written dissenting opinions of the six justices might just sway some of the majority justices to change or modify their votes. With a vote of 9-6, only two swing votes are needed to overturn the decision.
As to whether the State prosecutors can still amend the charges filed against De Lima, Justice Benjamin Caguioa pointed out in his dissenting opinion that the inherent flaw and defect in the criminal information cannot be cured by simply amending it.
Meanwhile, Justice Antonio Carpio branded the cases against De Lima as a “blatantly pure invention.”
Calling De Lima’s continued detention as one of the grossest injustice in recent memory, Carpio, in his own dissenting opinion, reminded his fellow justices that “this Court, the last bulwark of democracy and liberty in the land, should never countenance such a fake charge.”
The fact that the DOJ wanted to amend the charges it filed against De Lima despite the favorable decision from the Supreme Court is an implied, ironic and an embarrassing admission that the cases for which the senator is unjustly detained are pregnant with legal defects and loopholes.