DOJ chief still enjoys Aquino’s trust
The situation is back to normal. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will continue to uphold the rule of law.
Malacañang on Tuesday issued the statement as it continued to insist that there were no deals cut to appease the powerful Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ), which recently held a massive protest that nearly paralyzed Metro Manila’s traffic.
The INC had demanded de Lima’s resignation during its protest as church leaders accused her of meddling in the serious illegal detention and kidnapping cases filed by an expelled minister against members of the INC Sanggunian or Council of Leaders.
“Buo ang tiwala at kumpiyansa ng Pangulo kay Secretary de Lima [Secretary de Lima continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the President],” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters in a text message.
“The are no changes in the situation, we continue to follow the rule of law,” he said in Filipino.
Early Monday, the INC announced it was ending its protest after successful talks between its leadership and the government.
It also claimed “victory” over its enemies, further fueling speculation that Malacañang had made certain concessions to the INC.
But the Palace had denied that any agreement was sealed, reportedly including de Lima’s resignation in exchange for voluntary dispersal of the protesting INC members along EDSA and Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila) last week.
De Lima was among the high-ranking officials who met with Aquino in Malacañang on Sunday night to discuss the INC protest.
Also present during the meeting were Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd and Aquino’s spokesmen, who are yet to disclose in detail the discussion between the government and the INC.
De Lima reported for work on Tuesday and said she is not quitting her post.
“Will I be here if I’m resigning? I’m back at work. There’s a lot of work to do after the holidays,” she told reporters.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he is convinced that de Lima may have broken some protocols in handling the INC cases.
According to Marcos, he was looking at the manner with which the Justice secretary handled the complaints filed by Isaias Samson Jr. against fellow members of the INC.
There seems to be an intention to speed up the process, he said, by not going through the normal course.
Usually, the senator added, when a complaint is filed, it is the prosecutor who would conduct preliminary investigation and his findings will be forwarded to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take the necessary action either to file a case or not.
“But instead of allowing the legal process to take its course, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima immediately held a press conference to discuss the merits of the cases. This created the impression, rightly or wrongly, of undue interest in the cases,” Marcos said in an interview after addressing a forum at Assumption College in Makati City.
Marcos added that de Lima should have been fair in treating cases filed before the agency in order to avoid suspicion that it is giving “special attention” to a particular case, like what happened to Samson’s cases, and which made INC members felt that they were being persecuted.
Senator Francis Escudero said the DOJ should have observed the “first in, first out” policy in handling complaints in order to prevent suspicion that it is biased.
Meanwhile, he called on Malacanang to clarify the issue on the supposed agreement that it had forged with the politically powerful religious sect.
According to him, while the INC has been claiming that there was an agreement made, the government is denying it.
But political analyst Professor Ramon Casiple said he is not convinced that there was really an agreement between the government and the religious sect that led to the sudden end of the protest action.
He added that it is only the INC that is claiming that there was an agreement and that its action had resulted in a success.
“I think they [INC] are just trying to save face, because the government during the five-day rally has remained quiet and has not changed its position on the DOJ issue,” he said.
No special treatment
Roxas said “no special treatment” will be given to the INC.
In a statement, he pointed out that the government is not targeting the religious group.
Roxas said no agreement or deal was struck with the religious group during the meeting at the President’s official residence in Malacañang Park.