VACC, Topacio slam Robredo re ‘sub judice’ rule

November 21, 2019

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) takes strong exception, amid reported pronouncements of Vice-President Leni Robredo that the charges against Senator Leila De Lima are ‘false’ and that she must be ‘set free.’

Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, chief legal counsel of the VACC, has issued the reaction on the occasion of the 1,000th  day of De Lima’s incarceration.

The VACC happens to be one of the private complainants in the drug trafficking cases against De Lima, which are now pending trial before several branches of the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa City and for which De Lima is now in jail.

As a lawyer and officer of the court, Topacio says that Robredo’s remarks are grossly unethical being contemptuous, as it is ‘sub judice’.

‘As a lawyer, Robredo knows, or at least should know, that a lawyer ought not to make public comments or disclosures that tend to influence courts or prejudge the issues pending before any court. In transgressing this rule, she has given grounds for her suspension or even disbarment as a lawyer,’ says Topacio, who happens to be one of the leading lawyers in the country considering the countless high-profile cases he handles and have won in various courts.

According to Topacio, the ‘offense’ of Robredo is multiplied by the fact that she is the sitting Vice-President of the Philippines, although her proclamation is under strong protest and therefore, she is in a greater position to influence or intimidate trial courts.

‘She is therefore liable criminally administratively for indirect contempt of court as well as violation of the ethical standards that govern the conduct of public officials.’

The worst thing is that, co-chair of the country’s anti-drug task force, she is undermining the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police, with which she is supposed to be cooperating, by explicitly saying that these two agencies are prosecuting a case based on fabricated evidence, Topacio said.

This, he said, is ‘offensive, unseemly and a direct attack on the government of which she is supposed to be a part as Presidential appointee’.

Topacio also points out that Robredo has insulted the Secretary of Justice who, as a member of the Cabinet outranks her status as “anti-crime czar”, by saying that the Department of Justice is prosecuting a supposedly umeritorious suit.

Robredo, still according to Topacio,  has insulted:  the trial courts by saying that it was allegedly wrong for them to find probable cause to issue warrants of arrest against De Lima; the Supreme Court by saying, in effect, that it was purportedly wrong for it to uphold, by overwhelming majority, De Lima’s continued incarceration; the Philippine National Police by saying that it is willfully conspiring to keep De Lima in jail; the House of Representatives that came out with an exhaustive report detailing De Lima’s complicity in the Bilibid drug trade and the entire criminal justice system when she says that De Lima should be freed pending the final resolution of her drug trafficking charges.

As expected, the VACC will not take these statements from Robredo, which they described as an ‘affront to our institutions,’ sitting down.

In fact, as of this writing, I learned that  the VACC and Topacio have instructed the group’s entire legal panel to prepare the corresponding charges against the Vice-President, be it for contempt of court, disbarment and others of similar nature, to be filed as soon as possible in the proper fora.

‘No one, not even the Vice-President, should be allowed to make a mockery of the Philippine justice system,’ the group’s statement said.

In all fairness, the points raised are well-grounded. As the second highest official of the land, a lawyer at that, Robredo should not be pre-empting the decision of the court.

When a case is ‘sub judice,’ it means that it is still the subject of a trial in a court of law or is still under judicial consideration. Therefore, it is prohibited from public discussion elsewhere. I’m just a lowly law undergrad and I know this.  Shouldn’t lawyers know better?

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