‘Selective justice’ charge valid, legal experts say

MANILA — Several legal experts agreed  Friday  with the criticism of Vice President Jejomar Binay that the Aquino administration is engaged in “selective justice,” applying the full force of the law in prosecuting those in the opposition but being very lenient in going after its allies.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines national president Vicente Joyas, San Beda College law graduate school dean Ranhilio Aquino, University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque Jr. and lawyer Levito Baligod echoed the Vice President’s position that the Justice Department under Secretary Leila de Lima is apparently employing a double standard in its investigation and prosecution of anomalies, particularly in the case of the pork barrel scam.

Baligod, who served as counsel of whistle-blowers in the pork barrel scam led by Benhur Luy, said Binay was correct in criticizing the manner by which the Aquino administration is handling the investigation on corruption in government.

“This administration is timid to prosecute decadent allies, and brave to use the entire government apparatus to ram its political opponents,” Baligod said in a text message.

“It is selective justice; it is immoral, and its grant is corruption in itself,” the lawyer added.

Joyas, who heads the 55,000-strong national organization of lawyers, pointed to the delay in the filing of third batch of pork barrel cases where several administration allies, such as Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Joel Villanueva, Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and former Pangasinan Rep. Rachel Arenas, have been implicated.

“I do not agree with her (De Lima). There is selective justice and that holds true up to this day,” the IBP president said.

“We are all aware there are many people involved and yet only three senators were charged,” Joyas added.

Aquino said the double standard has been very glaring.

“The ‘selection’ is clear. Why were some hurriedly prosecuted and why does it take so long to conclude investigations against the President’s allies? Has any high profile ally like (Budget Secretary Florencio) Abad been prosecuted?” the law dean said.

Abad was included in the so-called “Napolist” submitted by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to De Lima early last year along with her supposedly tell-all testimony on the multibillion-peso racket.

Roque also criticized De Lima for denying the existence of selective justice.

“She’s playing blind and deaf to the fact that no one in the administration has been indicted despite COA (Commission on Audit) reports against administration allies on PDAF,” Roque said.

He added that nobody among the President’s alleis has been prosecuted despite the Supreme Court ruling against the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement.

“There’s just no reason for the delay when you have common (pieces of) evidence, COA reports and whistleblowers,” he said.

All four law experts also ridiculed De Lima’s claim that the investigation of the charges against administration allies has not yet been concluded.

“Every [piece of] evidence needed is with DOJ already. Secretary De Lima herself confirmed in her June 13, 2014 public statement that the evidence is already complete. So I’m very disappointed with her latest statement, especially on the ruse that more affidavits are need,” he said.

Aquino added that the investigation against opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada was so swift that De Lima’s new excuse was “lame,” Aquino said.

Lastly, the experts agreed that it was unlikely that Villanueva, who is being groomed to run for the Senate under the ruling Liberal Party banner, would be charged in court before next year’s elections.

“I doubt if the cases against the administration allies will still be filed,” Joyas said.

In April, De Lima said the third batch of pork barrel cases was no longer a priority for her office. After the statement drew flak, she took back her words and said the cases would be finished in two weeks.

When those two weeks were done, however, De Lima said they still needed to gather more evidence in support of the charges against the former and incumbent lawmakers, many of which were administration allies.

In a radio interview  Friday, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the next President should avoid the temptation to extract political vengeance.

“The next President should not make it a government policy to jail political opponents,” Marcos said, noting that the policy of revenge was counterproductive and divided Filipinos.

He said the top priority of President Benigno Aquino III’s successor is to push economic growth, improve the lives of the people and not go after political opponents.