02 December 2010

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima welcomes the recent statement made by Senator Panfilo Lacson through his lawyer, breaking as it does months of silence after the Senator disappeared from public view and went into hiding January of this year. This shows that the Senator is within earshot of the Secretary�s public pronouncements on the implementation of his arrest warrant, and is willing to engage the authorities at some level of understanding for possible terms of surrender.

Secretary De Lima suggests that Lacson heed the advice of his lawyer Alexander Poblador to �follow the judicial and legal process� of our criminal justice system, instead of laying down conditions that are not legally feasible at this point. Senator Lacson has a standing warrant of arrest and is a fugitive from justice. He knows that his present status does not accord him the privilege of laying down terms with a tenor of finality. Secretary De Lima is thus taking Lacson�s statements as overtures to start negotiating terms of surrender other than those involving the lifting of his warrant of arrest and the granting of his motion for reinvestigation. The issues Lacson has raised as conditions for his surrender, such as the granting of his motion for reinvestigation, should be discussed after his coming back into the fold of the law.

Secretary De Lima also said that at this point, the DOJ cannot motuproprio act on Lacson�s motion for reinvestigation. The same has already been denied on motion for reconsideration (MR) by the RTC of Manila and is now on its second MR. A petition for certiorari was also filed by Lacson with the Court of Appeals (CA) assailing the same denial by the RTC and said petition is still pending with the CA. The issue of reinvestigation is now a single incident pending before two courts, the RTC and the Court of Appeals. The DOJ is without jurisdiction to preempt the decision of two courts of law on this matter.

Thus, the DOJ cannot, at this point, review what is for the courts to decide. If the new evidence as presented by Lacson�s lawyers is indeed meritorious, at least one of the two courts of law which have jurisdiction over the incident will rule in Lacson�s favor, and the DOJ will respect that ruling. The most that the DOJ can do is to withdraw its opposition to Lacson�s motion for reinvestigation, which the Secretary cannot entertain as of the present. Lacson�ssurrender should precede any favorable response that may come from the government. Surrender, under criminal law, is a mitigating circumstance that can be properly appreciated not only by the courts but also by the DOJ.

At this juncture, the government has no option but to enforce the law and implement the warrant of arrest against Lacson. Any government concession will have to depend on Lacson�s show of good faith and respect for our laws which apply to everyone, Senator and ordinary citizen alike. Given his stature, Senator Lacson has no reason to fear that he will be treated differently and persecuted by the government. But his refusal to return to the fold of the law and observe the legal processes will only galvanize the government�s resolve to take him into custody, not to persecute him, but to enable him both to properly face his accusers, and to defend his innocence in the only venue where it can be sufficiently proven, in a court of law.

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