ALREADY facing imminent arrest for drug trafficking cases, Senator Leila de Lima may be facing more legal woes, including a possible inciting to sedition charge following her strong statements against President Rodrigo Duterte last Tuesday.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II warned that De Lima could be held criminally liable for inciting the people to rebel against the President whom she branded as a “psychopathic murderer” and “dictator” during a press conference in the Senate.
“She should be careful about her statements, she was already inciting to sedition,” Aguirre said.
Inciting to sedition is an offense punishable under Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code committed by “any person who, without taking any direct part in the crime of sedition, should incite others to the accomplishment of any of the acts which constitute sedition, by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, cartoons, banners, or other representations tending to the same end.”
It also covers “utter seditious words or speeches, write, publish, or circulate scurrilous libels against the Republic of the Philippines or any of the duly constituted authorities thereof, or which tend to disturb or obstruct any lawful officer in executing the functions of his office, or which tend to instigate others to cabal and meet together for unlawful purposes, or which suggest or incite people against the lawful authorities or to disturb the peace of the community, the safety and order of the Government.”
Such crime is punishable by imprisonment of up to six years to and a fine not exceeding P2,000.
Aguirre was referring to De Lima’s statements calling for the public to rise against Duterte.
De Lima was quoted urging the public to speak out against crimes allegedly being committed by the President, although she did not specifically call for a people power to oust him.
“Now is the time to make a stand and rise up in the face of a criminal dictator and a repressive regime,” the senator declared.
“Lend your voice. Lend your voice of outrage [for] what’s happening in the country,” she pleaded.
De Lima said Duterte, whom she accused of being liable for the killings of the Davao Death Squad, is “the number one criminal in the Philippines, if not the world.”
The senator also called on the Cabinet to declare Duterte incapable of keeping the top government post.
“To the members of the Cabinet, you can save our country from a criminal President through declaring that because of his criminal mind, he has no capacity to perform the duties of a President,” she said.
Taking the cudgel for the President, the Justice Secretary said the allegations of De Lima were “totally baseless.”
“It is all rehashed and Senator De Lima knows it. She served as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights from May 7, 2008 to June 30, 2010 and as secretary of Justice from June 30, 2010 to October 12, 2015, yet she did not file any case against then Mayor Duterte on the purported killings. Even the timing is suspect, why come out only now? Is somebody diverting the public’s attention from what is to come? One cannot help but ask these questions,” he added.
“As a former Secretary of Justice, Senator De Lima should know that the real battle is in the courts. She should do the fighting there, answer all the charges against her there and present credible evidence in her defense there and not in a press conference,” he added.
Solicitor General Jose Calida echoed Aguirre’s sentiments, saying that De Lima’s “latest tirades against President Duterte and the government clearly show why she is the high priestess of hypocrisy.”
“She should stop acting like a vacuous victim and crybaby. My unsolicited advice to her is: face the charges with equanimity and dignity befitting a senator,” he said.
Meanwhile, De Lima disclosed that Malacañang’s tried to sway the votes of senators who favored the Senate inquiry into claims of retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas that the president ordered the killings perpetrated by the Davao Death Squad when he was Davao City mayor.
De Lima said she got an information about efforts from the Palace to stop Lascañas from testifying in the impending senate inquiry. She said some senators were asked to go to Malacañang immediately after the Senate caucus Tuesday night, which was suspicious.
“They learned what happened and they want to remedy the situation so...I really do not know what happened,” she said.
Due to the pressure being exerted by the Palace, De Lima admitted it is likely that some senators who voted for the conduct of the Senate probe might overturn their earlier decision or might abstain.
“But it won’t look good to those individual senators solely changing their votes from last night [Tuesday]. And also, the Senate is an institution because we know for a fact there were some (senators) called to the Palace last night,” she said.
De Lima, however, said she does not know who were summoned to Malacanang. “I was not able to confirm so I don’t want to say who are they,” she said.
She said Malacañang is panicking because Lascañas is a “genuine” witness.
“Oh yes, there’s no doubt. Just like in Edgar Matobato, no reaction came from Digong. He is again silent just like in Edgar Matobato. Because, he [Duterte] knows that’s the truth.So that would be very damaging so they’re in panic mode,” said De Lima. The senator also said Malacañang did not expect that the voting would turn out that way.
“But that’s only based on how I see it—they were surprised they lost. They were surprised because they’re expecting senators would vote with them against the hearing on Lascañas. But they abstained instead. So they’re in panic mode,”she said.
Asked about the possibility that they will be outnumbered if some senators changed their votes, De Lima expressed hope it doesn’t happen.
“It would have a huge effect. As I said, it won’t look good. It will really look bad for those who will be flip-flopping, changing their minds, and on the Senate as an institution, which means the independence of the Senate is indeed questionable,” she emphasized.
When he faced the Senate media on Monday, Lascañas, who was assisted by FLAG lawyers, contradicted the statements he gave last October to the Senate justice committee hearing the extrajudicial hearings in the country. He admitted the existence of DDS which he said was formed by Duterte when he was Davao City mayor.
Lascañas said Duterte paid up to P100,000 for the killing of a target, but spent P4 million for the killing of his staunch critic, Davao City-based broadcaster Jun Palo.
During a caucus Tuesday night, 10 senators voted to proceed with the Senate hearing on EJKs following the “expose” of Lascanas while seven senators were against it.
The 10 who supported the conduct of the hearing are Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes IV, Chiz” Escudero, Joel Villanueva, Sonny Angara and Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto.
Except for Trillanes, Escudero and Recto, the seven other senators are members of the so-called supermajority bloc in the Senate.
The seven senators who rejected the probe are Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Senators Richard Gordon, Migs Zubiri, Manny Pacquiao, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gringo Honasan and Cynthia Villar.
Those who abstained from voting are Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto and Senators Panfilo Lacson, JV Ejercito, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay.
Senators Grace Poe and Alan Peter Cayetano were not present in the Senate caucus.
But Poe already aired her desire for the Senate to proceed with the hearing to find out why Lascañas had retracted his earlier testimony in the Senate.
Cayetano is a close ally of Duterte who was his running mate in the last May elections.
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