De Lima: Let us avoid a constitutional crisis
MANILA - The Senate, Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Office of the Ombudsman need not flex each other's muscles and should just learn to give each institution leeway in order to prevent any possible constitutional crisis, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
De Lima was referring to the issue on the summonses sent out by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brains behind the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam, and the whistleblowers.
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III lashed out at De Lima during Tuesday's public hearing for her refusal to clear the attendance of the whistleblowers.
De Lima said she wanted to defer to the Office of the Ombudsman, where complaints for plunder and other graft cases are now pending in connection with the pork scam.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, De Lima said she and several whistleblowers, including primary whistleblower Benhur Luy, will be present in Thursday's hearing in order to prevent a constitutional issue or constitutional crisis.
De Lima met with the lawyers of the whistleblowers at the Justice Department on Wednesday to discuss the summonses.
"I have reservations about really compelling our whistleblowers [to appear] at this time before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee; issue po yan pero ayaw ko naman po palakihin ang issue na yan.
"That's an issue than can go all the way to the Supreme Court; it's a legal constitutional issue pero tama ba na mag-take further issue on that? Ano ba magiging epekto nyan? Mada-divert lang, masa sidetrack lang ang kaso," De Lima said.
Her only concern is the successful prosecution of the cases stemming from the pork barrel scam, and the safety of the whistleblowers and other witnesses, De Lima stressed, which is why she has reservations concerning their appearance before the televised hearings.
"Siempre bilang DOJ (Department of Justice), ang mahalaga sa akin, yung successful prosecution. So gusto ko pangalagaan yun, gusto ko ipreserve integrity ng proceedings before the Ombudsman. Gusto ko proteksyunan yung mga whistleblowers, yung mga witnesses.
"Dati ko na hong sinabi yun sa Sept 12 hearing, sa opening statement ko, na hindi ito mga sanay, hindi naman nila yan sinsadya na mai-involve sila dyan, and then bigla mo i-expose ngayon - prematurely, publicly - na nagsisimula pa lang ang kaso sa Ombudsman?" De Lima said.
"Pero sabi ko nga, hindi na ako makikipag-girian sa issue na yan.. ayaw ko magkaroon ng constitutional issue, let alone a constitutional crisis, na magkakaroon ng clash ng two seemingly conflicting jurisdictions; although sa tingin ko walang conflict doon, it's just a matter of balancing things out," she added.
WHISTLEBLOWERS SURPRISED, PERPLEXED, HESITANT
While Luy and several others, especially the ones named in the Senate summonses, are going to appear before the Blue Ribbon Committee on Thursday, De Lima said the others have expressed hesitation.
Some of the 16 whistleblowers and witnesses who have come forward to shed light on the pork scam did not expect to tell their story before any other forum, De Lima said, except before a preliminary investigation and the possible subsequent trial of the cases before the Sandiganbayan.
"Yung iba, hindi pa sila nagcoconfirm, and sabi ng lawyers nagugulat bakit ganun, wala sa anticipation nila na isasalang din sila in any other proceeding other than sa korte.
"Yung ganyan na mga proceedings, wala sa consciousness nila o wala sa expectations nila so meron silang agam agam," De Lima said.
De Lima will pose preliminary questions to the Committee in Thursday's hearing, to seek clarification on several matters.
"I think the Senate will not take it against me... I will still be raising certain preliminary questions tomorrow, I'd ask for enlightenment on certain things. Aalamin ko muna bakit yung tungkol sa subpoena for Napoles ay ni-refer muna [by Senate Pres. Franklin Drilon] sa Ombudsman for comment and opinion, and bakit itong tungko sa whistleblowers, iba ang ginawa, nag-issue agad ng subpoena.
"Gusto ko na muna maintindihan. I'm not saying kinukwestyon ko, gusto ko lang ng konting guidance and enlightenment ano ba talaga ang direksyon ng inquiry na yan. Of course, we all know it's in aid of legislation but how exactly, bakit kailangan pang pakinggan lahat ng whistleblowers? Foremost in my mind, the last thing that I would want to happen is that in that proceedings before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee ay mapi-prejudice talaga ang kaso sa Ombudsman, and, ultimately, sa Sandiganbayan,"she said.