MANILA, Sept 24 (Mabuhay) – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday bid farewell to the Department of Justice, underscoring the agency’s “humble” victories under her leadership despite “pressures.”
De Lima, however, has not yet formally offered her intention to quit her post, despite rumors of her senatorial bid for the May 2016 polls.
“I will soon leave all of you… Wherever I will be in coming years, I will cherish all my years at the Department of Justice,” she said in her last “State of the Department Address” during the 118th founding anniversary of the DOJ Manila.
In her speech, De Lima highlighted the DOJ’s efforts to deliver “real-time justice” during her five-year stint in the agency, saying that the rate of case disposition has increased from 75 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2014, and that prosecution rate also improved from 68 percent in 2010 to 73 percent in 2014.
She also cited the DOJ’s accomplishments in the Maguindanao massacre case; the pork barrel fund scam; the Balintang Channel shooting incident; the Atimonan encounter; and the case of Mary Jane Veloso, who is facing death in Indonesia after being convicted of drug smuggling.
She also noted the DOJ’s efforts against monopolies in the market and illegal drug activities inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Likewise, De Lima expressed hopes that the transfer of the NBP and the Correctional Institute for Women to Nueva Ecija would solve the “age-old” problem of jail congestion and decrepit jail facilities.
De Lima became teary-eyed in the last part of her speech, even as she quipped how much she misses her father.
“Siya ang nagbigay ng gabay sa akin when I accepted the Commission on Human Rights post. Siya iyong nagbigay uli ng gabay sa akin when I accepted the DOJ post and now the next phase of my journey, bigla ko syang na miss,” said De Lima. Asked if she thinks her father had already given him a sign, De Lima said: “I think so.”
“In the end, what makes up the legacy of (my) administration in the DOJ is the integrity of the institution that’s left behind after six years in government,” she said.
De Lima described herself as a “caretaker and steward” of an institution by protecting and insulating the agency’s professionalism from politics.
Also, she said the budget of DOJ for 2016 has a P54-million allocation for increase in operational expenses and P48 million for additional support staff.
She said that when she faces President Benigno Aquino III to give an accounting of what she has done as DOJ secretary, she would tell him this:
“I was not able to fulfill my mission of delivering complete justice to all but what I did was leave behind a DOJ that in time will accomplish that mission,” she said.
In making a point over what she considered as “pressures” in the exercise of her duties, she made an apparent allusion to her recent spat with the Iglesia ni Cristo.
She said she “protected the institution and its people from pressures,” pointing out that the agency has been “pilloried in public for meddling in their religion’s affairs.”
Other than saying she is “seriously considering it,” De Lima still refused to categorically say if she would run for the Senate. “Until nga magkaroon ng official announcement iyong admin ticket hindi ako pwedeng magsabi na 100 percent na ako,” she said.
When asked, “Buo na po ba loob niyo,” De Lima replied: “I think so… na susubukan na ang another world.”
As for her replacement as DOJ secretary, De Lima refused to give any possible candidates, but said she had already endorsed one to President Benigno Aquino III.
De Lima has figured prominently in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, though she has still yet to confirm her bid for the Senate in 2016.
She said she would be making a “categorical acceptance” once the Liberal Party officially announces its line-up for the senatorial race.(MNS)