Justice chief says many legal options open to De Lima

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra — PCOO.GOV.PH

JUSTICE SECRETARY Menardo I. Guevarra said on Wednesday that there are many legal remedies available to detained Senator Leila M. de Lima to counter the charges against her. “If you believe that the charges against you are not true, then slug it out, file it out,” he said in a media forum. “File a demurrer to evidence if you want to, file a petition for bail. So there are so many legal remedies available to her,” he added. A demurrer to evidence is filed to dismiss a case for insufficiency of evidence. An accused will be acquitted if the motion is granted. The US Senate foreign relations committee passed a resolution last year calling for the release of Ms. de Lima, a staunch critic of the administration’s war on drugs, and dropping of charges against Rappler Executive Editor Maria A. Ressa. They said the detention of Ms. De Lima is due to her political views. Philippine government officials have slammed the US senators for what they call meddling, citing that the country’s justice system is at work in Ms. De Lima’s case. Mr. Guevarra said the senator cannot be released as trial is ongoing. “She can only be released if she gets acquitted. And if she gets convicted, only executive clemency can free her because that’s life imprisonment for the offense charged,” he said. The senator has been in prison since February 2017 on the charge of conspiring to commit illegal drug trading in the national penitentiary when she was Justice secretary. Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Lacson calls for stiffer penalties for perjury

SENATOR PANFILO M. Lacson is pushing for the imposition of stiffer penalties against witnesses that bear false statements while under oath. Mr. Lacson, in a statement on Wednesday, said lying under oath seems to have become a cheap habit in the country. “Naging tig-singkong duling na lang ang pagsisinungaling under oath sa Pilipinas. That is why there is a compelling need for a stronger perjury law.” The statement came after lawyer Jude Josue L. Sabio’s move to withdraw the case he filed against President Rodrigo R. Duterte before the International Criminal Court. Mr. Lacson also named Police Maj. Rodney Baloyo, who was cited for contempt for his false testimony during the Senate probe on the operation of rogue cops. “Our present perjury law only carries a prison term of six months up to two years and two months. With a penalty that light, we can expect lying witnesses not only in Senate hearings but even before the courts,” the senator said. Under Senate Bill No. 28, Mr. Lacson proposes to penalize not only witnesses, but also public officials and employees who give false testimony. The proposed penalties include a fine of up to P1 million, perpetual absolute disqualification from public office, and the “same penalty for the felony the defendant is being accused of.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan

BuCor gets March deadline to process inmates up for early release

THE BUREAU of Corrections (BuCor) has been given until March to process the release of around 400 inmates who surrendered to authorities following the controversy on the premature release of convicts who have exhibited good conduct. Mr. Guevarra said the BuCor asked for more time due to lack of resources. “The BuCor people have requested us, I think the other day, if they can be given until March to process the remaining 400 or so na PDLs (persons deprived of liberty), due to insufficient resources,” he said in a media forum. Mr. Guevarra said he granted the request for more time to review the records, but told BuCor officials to ensure that prisoners who are waiting for the processing of their papers are properly taken care of. “Sabi ko (I said), okay, we’ll give you that grace period that you are asking, and that condition is during the interim, while the PDLs are waiting for you to process their papers, make sure they are properly fed, they are properly accommodated, and they are safe,” he said. The Justice secretary also said that inmates who were released anew after their surrender may file for civil damages. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas