By Jeffrey Damicog
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) continues to insist that it can lawyer for the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in the sedition complaint it filed against 36 persons including members of the opposition concerning their involvement in the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” viral videos.
“Verily, the OSG has the full authority to represent the CIDG-NCRFU (National Capital Region Field Unit) in a preliminary investigation before the DOJ (Department of Justice) Special Panel of Prosecutors,” read the OSG’s omnibus motion that was filed before the panel of prosecutors conducting the preliminary investigation of the complaint.
The omnibus motion was signed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, six other officials and lawyers of the OSG, namely, Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda; Senior State Solicitor Karen Ong; State Solicitors Jonathan Honorato Lock, Patrick Joseph Tapales, and Marlon Bosantang; and Attorney II Joas Sergio.
The OSG filed the omnibus motion in response to the various motions filed by the respondents in the complaint, including those who questioned the authority of the OSG to represent the PNP-CIDG.
The OSG cited that it had the authority to represent the PNP-CIDG based on Executive Order 292 which states that: “The Office of the Solicitor General shall represent the Government of the Philippines and its officials and agents in any litigation, proceeding, investigation or matter requiring the services of lawyers.
It also mentioned that Administrative Code, which provides that the OSG: “Act and represent the Republic and/or the people before any court, tribunal, body or commission in any matter, action or proceeding which, in his opinion, affects the welfare of the people as the ends of justice may require.”
“The gravity and seriousness of the offense/s, not to mention the personalities involved in plotting to topple the duly constituted government and overthrow its duly elected President will essentially and necessarily effects the general welfare. Hence, to ensure that the respondents who probable committed a crime against the State, should be indicted in court and bring forth to justice,” the OSG explained.
The OSG refuted the argument of the respondents which cited the Supreme Court (SC) ruling over the Urbano vs. Chavez case where the high court ruled that the OSG cannot represent then Interior Secretary Luis Santos and other government officials during a preliminary investigation.
“Unlike the Urbano case, the OSG is now entering its appearance as the legal representative of its client-agency, the complainant CIDG-NCRFU, and not as the legal counsel of the respondent public officials,” the OSG stated.
In its complaint that was filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on July 18, the PNP-CIDG accused the 36 respondents of having committed sedition, inciting to sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa, harboring a criminal, and obstruction of justice.
Those who have been named as respondents included Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo; incumbent Senators Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros and Leila De Lima; and former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
The complaint also named as respondents most of the losing “Otso Diretso” senatorial candidates of the Liberal Party, namely, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, former Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Robredo’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, former Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, former Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, and Samira Gutoc-Tomawis.
The case stemmed from the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos which featured Peter Joemel Advincula, alias Bikoy, who accused a number of personalities including family members of President Rodrigo Duterte as being involved in the illegal drugs trade.
The PNP-CIDG said, in its complaint, that Advincula revealed that “he was engaged by the respondents to spread lies against the President, his family and close associate, making them appear as illegal trade protectors and how they earned staggering amounts of money.”
In the same omnibus motion, the OSG defended Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in creating a special panel of prosecutors to conduct the preliminary investigation of the complaint.
“In this case, when the Secretary created the Panel of Investigators composed of members from the Prosecution Staff, he is merely acting within the scope and authority granted to the Department under E.O. No. 292 and R.A. No. 10071 (Prosecution Service Act of 2010),” the OSG cited.
The OSG reminded that one of the respondents, Sen. Leila de Lima, herself even created special panels of prosecutors when she was justice secretary to conduct preliminary investigations.
“The authority to conduct a preliminary investigation by a special panel of investigators was likewise upheld by the Supreme Court in Gregorio Honasan vs. The Panel of Investigating Prosecutors which involved the filing by CIDG-PNP/PDirector Eduardo Marillano of an affidavit-complaint for coup d’etat against former Senator Honasan,” it added.
Contrary to what the respondents are saying, the OSG said: “the Secretary is vested with the power and function to delegate his authority to officers and employees under his direction in accordance with E.O. No. 292, and to perform such other functions as may be provided by law.”
The OSG also maintained its stance to produce later additional evidence in the case despite demands from respondents to present before the panel all the evidence.
“It must be emphasized that the present action is merely at the preliminary investigation stage. The established rule is that a preliminary investigation is not the occasion for the full and exhaustive display of the parties’ evidence; it is for the presentation of such evidence only as may engender a well-grounded belief that an offense has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof,” it pointed out.