Robredo slams DOJ for accusing critics as 'drug protectors'

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Vice President Leni Robredo leads the opening of the Istorya ng Pag-asa Photo Gallery in Cebu City on Tuesday.

Updated to include statements of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 28) — Vice President Leni Robredo took note of a pattern against critics of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"Nakakalungkot lang iyong mga nangyayaring ganiyan kasi parang nagiging pattern na siya na kung sino man iyong sumasalungat sa anumang polisiya na inihayag, o kung sino man ang sumasalungat sa kahit anong desisyon, parating may tag na 'drug protector,'" Robredo said in an interview Tuesday, on the sidelines of the Istorya ng Pag-asa gallery launch in Cebu City.

[Translation: It saddens me that there seems to be a pattern that critics of policies and those who oppose decisions are being branded as drug protectors.]

Robredo said the DOJ should instead focus on delivering "justice and fairness" to the people after its series of decisions, including the dismissal of charges against suspected drug lord Peter Lim and self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa. Both were named by President Rodrigo Duterte as part of the drug network in the country linked to the Chinese triad.

"Hindi ito isang ahensya na puwedeng gamitin para sa mga personal na vindictiveness, lalo na kapag pulitika iyong dahilan. Ito iyong ahensyang inatasan para siguraduhin na iyong katarungan ang mananaig sa ating bansa. Kung sila mismo iyong nagiging instrumento ng pagkawalang-katarungan, napakahirap noon para sa ating lahat, kasi saan pa tayo, 'di ba, saan pa tayo sasandig?" she added.

[Translation: It is not an agency to be used for personal vindictiveness, especially if politics is the reason. This is an agency which helps ensure justice prevails in the country. But if it becomes an instrument of injustice, then it would be difficult for us. To whom can we turn to?]

Robredo called on Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to solve the issues hounding the agency amid claims he was "blindsided" in some of these decisions.

"Ngayon, may bagong paratang kay Mayor (Tomas) Osmeña na drug protector. Kanina, nabasa natin na iyong Bohol incident, napawalang-sala. Si Peter Lim saka si Espinosa ay napawalang-sala. Si Napoles ay gagawing state witness," she explained.

[Translation:Now, Mayor Osmeña is accused of being a drug protector. Earlier we read the Bohol incident-the suspect has been cleared of charges. Peter Lim and Espinosa have been cleared of drug raps too. Napoles will be a state witness.]

No political vendetta

Aguirre denied Robredo's claims. 

"What political vendetta is she talking about? Is it her position that we should not pursue any criminal prosecution for violation of the comprehensive drugs law because the culprit belongs to the opposition? This is the same position they have respecting the De Lima cases. That no case should be filed against Osmeña because he is anti-Duterte advocate?" he said in a statement Tuesday.

Senator Leila De Lima, a staunch Duterte critic, has been detained at Camp Crame since February 2017 over drug charges.

The DOJ has been under fire after a few of its rulings: to clear the suspect in the abduction and killing of Bien-Unido, Bohol Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel of charges, and to accept alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Naples under the Witness Protection Program.

The department is currently reviewing Napoles' affidavit, where she promised to "tell all."

Robredo also slammed Aguirre after he accused Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña as a drug protector. Osmeña filed graft charges against him after the mayor claimed Aguirre meddled in tax evasion cases filed by the local government against SM Malls and Banco De Oro.

Aguirre earlier said he is eyeing to file a case against Osmeña .

Osmeña was a friend of the Vice President's late husband, Jesse Robredo.