MANILA, Philippines – The exuberant claim by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Friday that socialite Ruby Tuason’s testimony is “slam dunk evidence” against lawmakers in the pork barrel scam has stirred an exchange of comments between the Office of Vice President Jejomar Binay, who reacted Sunday, and the DOJ itself, which counter-reacted on Monday.
De Lima deemed uncalled for Binay’s reported comment shooting down her remark about the indispensable value of the affidavit of Tuason, whom she provisionally admitted under the Witness Protection Program and who was projected as a state witness —ahead of an order by the courts, the only one authorized to decide who qualifies for that status.
In turn, Binay reacted to de Lima’s reaction through his spokesman Joey Salgado, who sent this statement to InterAksyon.com Monday afternoon:
“As a member of the Cabinet, VP Binay fully supports the administration’s reform agenda. Likewise, he believes that the pursuit of reform must be in accordance with the processes required by law.
“As a lawyer, he wishes to emphasize that only the courts can decide who can qualify as a state witness in criminal cases. There is a process that must be observed. Government prosecutors must first file a motion in court to discharge the would-be state witness from the rest of the accused and for the same person to be declared a state witness. The law also requires that for one to qualify as state witness, he or she should not be the most guilty and the evidence of the prosecution is weak, thereby needing the testimony of the would-be state witness.
“Therefore, VP Binay feels that any declaration that a person will be a state witness prior to the approval of the court would be premature, misleading and not in keeping with the rule of law.
The statement of the vice president is intended as a reminder for the DOJ that there are legal processes to be followed and this administration is committed to the rule of law.
“VP Binay also wishes to remind the Secretary of Justice that the presumption of innocence is enshrined in the Constitution. That some personalities involved in the PDAF controversy are his political allies is incidental. This constitutional right extends to all, allies and foes alike. This is what the Vice President fought for as a human rights lawyer—along with countless others—during martial law. This is the Vice President’s personal crusade.
“Vice President Binay extends his full and unequivocal support to our government prosecutors. He is fully behind their efforts to bring to justice those responsible for violating our laws. He is confident that our prosecutors will always adhere to the rule of law.
“Lastly, the Vice President knows that our government prosecutors have their work cut out for them. They must erase any doubts that Ruby Tuason is qualified to be state witness.”
Earlier, Sen. Koko Pimentel, a Bar topnotcher, said in a radio interview that the DOJ should review well Tuason’s testimony, if only to ensure it is not yarn spun to save her neck and prevent her from going to jail. While her claim, if true, would certainly boost the prosecution case, it’s important to ensure that such claim is not the product of “desperation” or, in his words, “bola-boladas lang [just fabrications].”