Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday officially stepped into the case involving Vice President Jejomar Binay when she ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) toto investigate the graft allegations against the Vice President and some members of his family, their alleged dummies and cohorts.
Under the law, only the Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to investigate government officials in cases related to their office.
But in the Binay case, de Lima maintained that her agency can conduct a parallel probe.
“The NBI will be creating a team for this case. In fact, [the creation of a]a very dedicated team has begun. [It is being completed by the] NBI. I have met with [NBI Director Virgilio Mendez], [the bureau will be assigned to probe the allegations]. We will be doing this investigation as a sort of parallel investigation,” the Justice chief said.
De Lima made the disclosure after meeting with former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, lawyer Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso 3rd, who alleged that Binay benefited from the construction of Makati City Hall Building 2 and various projects when the now-Vice President was mayor of Makati City and that he owns a vast estate in Batangas.
She said the NBI’s findings would still be reviewed by the Office of the Ombudsman.
The DOJ chief denied that she is part of a conspiracy to weaken Binay’s candidacy in 2016.
“If there is such an Oplan [Operation Plan: Stop Binay] I am not part of it. This [probe]is my own decision. I will only stop if the President tells me to stop,” she said.
The camp of Binay, however , said de Lima is part of the plot.
Despite the DOJ chief’s order, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, Binay’s spokesperson on political concerns, said the Vice President remains committed to his work.
“It is a sad day when even the DOJ [Department of Justice] is part of the political circus,” Remulla noted.
“The Vice President will remain focused on the job given to him by the President concerning housing for the poor and the overseas Filipino workers,” he said.
JV Bautista, interim secretary general of the United Nationalist Alliance, said de Lima may face disbarment if she pursues the investigation against the Vice President.
The DOJ chief “is certainly courting a lawsuit for her abusive and unlawful acts. Perhaps another disbarment case will knock some sense into her head,” Bautista added.
“The DOJ clearly has no jurisdiction to conduct an investigation over any impeachable official. That power belongs exclusively to the Ombudsman. De Lima should read her Administrative Code and the Ombudsman Law to understand this very basic rule on exclusive jurisdiction,” he said.
Bautista pointed out that neither President Benigno Aquino 3rd nor the Ombudsman gave orders to the DOJ to investigate the allegations against the Vice President.
“Why is she initiating the investigation motu propio? There is no order or instruction from the President, nor is there any request from the Ombudsman. There is also no formal complaint before her office to give her any justification to initiate a criminal investigation,” he said.
“De Lima is an over-eager political wannabe bureaucrat with no jurisdiction to investigate the Vice President. She belongs to the executive branch of government. The Vice President, therefore, is her superior and she is not possessed with power or authority to order an investigation [of]her superior, in the same manner that she cannot order [an]investigation [of]the President,” Bautista added.