MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima wants to hear from the family of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude their assessment of the government prosecutors’ performance during the preliminary investigation of the case.
Despite the Laudes’ lead counsel Harry Roque Jr.’s criticism of the panel of prosecutors led by Olongapo City Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos, De Lima on Monday said she heard another lawyer of the family say that they were satisfied with the way the preliminary investigation was being handled.
“I read somewhere that another lawyer of the Laude family reportedly expressed satisfaction with the progress of the case at the preliminary investigation level. And yet, here’s attorney Roque adopting an opposite stance, i.e., in attack mode versus city prosecutor De los Santos. So which is which?” De Lima said in a text message to reporters.
“I think there’s a need for the Laude family to clarify who among these lawyers is truly representing their interests,” she added.
De Lima also scored Roque’s plan to file a motion for De los Santos’ inhibition from the case just a few days after the panel wrapped up its investigation and considered the complaint submitted for resolution.
“Attorney Harry keeps mentioning this plan of his only through the media. And he reacts negatively whenever the DOJ (Department of Justice) issues any comment or statement in response to his public statements. I don’t get him,” De Lima said.
The DOJ chief earlier warned Roque against making insinuations about the biases and competence of the five-member preliminary investigation panel, saying that these “might be misconstrued as attempts to pressure (De los Santos) and/or influence the outcome of the case, hence, are unethical.”
De Lima said Roque’s accusations against De los Santos were “without clear and sufficient basis,” adding that the lawyer should just let the panel do its job.
She said the prosecutors were independent, adding, “On the part of the DOJ, we always see to it that we dispose of our cases based purely on their merits—uninfluenced by external pressures, improper motives and/or peripheral considerations such as political or ideological propaganda.”
The word war between De Lima and Roque erupted after the Laude family complained about not being provided the report of the US Naval Criminal Investigation Service on Laude’s death. They also complained about not being invited to witness the taking of fingerprints and DNA samples from the suspect, US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Roque said De los Santos was antagonistic toward the Laudes and their legal team and that she was taking orders from the US government.
“It (De los Santos’ removal) will assure the victim and the rest of the country that all the members of the (government) panel will be impartial,” he had said.
Laude, 26, was found dead on Oct. 11 in the toilet of a motel room in Olongapo City. Pemberton is detained in a US facility at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
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