Anti-crime advocates filed on Tuesday drug trafficking complaints with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Senator Leila De Lima and seven other personalities allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.
Apart from De Lima, also charged by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption with sale of illegal drugs and conspiracy to commit drug trade under Republic Act 9165 were:
- former Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III;
- former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu;
- De Lima's former security aides Ronnie Dayan, Joenel Sanchez and Jose Adrian Dera alias Jad De Vera;
- Bucayu's staff and alleged bagman Col. Wilfredo Ely; and
- high profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian
Anti-crime advocates file drug trafficking complaints before DOJ vs Sen.De Lima, ex-DOJ Usec. Baraan, ex-Bucor chief Bucayu, 5 others. pic.twitter.com/XdYdOgnrxX— Virgil Lopez (@virgillopez) October 11, 2016
Relying on the testimonies of former BuCor officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and inmate Herbert Colanggo, the VACC said the respondents “acted in concerted effort, whose actions exhibited the display of uniform agreement to engage in illegal drug trade.”
“Each one of them had played significant roles in order to ensure the perpetuation of the illegal drug trade inside the Bilibid,” stated the complaint, which was filed on behalf of VACC by its founding chairman Dante Jimenez.
In De Lima's case, the VACC said she was able to put in position her cohorts at the BuCor to enable her to maneuver the drug trade.
“Her influence and power likewise offered respondents in this case shield and protection to ensure the invinsibility in the conduct of their illegal trade; in this same manner that she was also able to eliminate the competitors of Jaybee inside the prison by having them transferred to the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) in December 2014,” the complaint stated.
Baraan, on the other hand, according to Colanggo, allegedly earned from facilitating transfer of inmates from one compound to another in return for P500,000, or from one penal colony to another for a higher rate of P3 million.
Ragos had said he delivered P5 million from drug payoffs in two instances to De Lima's house in Parañaque City in late 2012 while Colanggo said the former justice secretary got P3 million monthly from him in exchange for allowing the lavish lifestyle of some high profile inmates.
The complaints, which were prepared by Colanggo's counsel, Ferdinand Topacio, will undergo preliminary investigation by DOJ prosecutors who will determine if there is probable cause to press charges in court.
Why not with the Office of the Ombudsman
“The lawyers of VACC and Atty. Topacio should know that such a case against me for acts done while Secretary of Justice should be filed with the Ombudsman,” said De Lima, a former justice secretary during the Aquino administration.
She added that while the DOJ may initially take cognizance of the complaint, it would still be eventually filed before the Office of the Ombudsman for another round of fact-finding investigation.
In welcoming the complaint, De Lima said: “Instead of stoning me in a House inquiry, they should start filing cases in the proper venue.”
No documentary evidence yet
Building an airtight case against De Lima, however, is not easy, according to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday.
He said they have yet to secure documentary evidence linking the bank deposits amounting to billions of pesos from the illegal transactions to De Lima and suspected drug lords inside the national penitentiary.
Asked why the VACC did not wait for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to complete its fact finding probe into the drug mess, Topacio said it would be better to jumpstart the process of making the respondents accountable.
“We just want to put it under the jurisdiction of the DOJ immediately so that the DOJ can make use of its investigative powers, including the power to subpoena (certain individuals and documents),” he told reporters.
Topacio added not all high profile inmates with drug links were included in the complaints because they were only coerced by Sebastian to take part in the “illegal” fund raising drive for De Lima's senatorial campaign.
“It's very clear na tinakot sila. They were compelled to give money...Tinakot sila. Uniform halos lahat ang sinasabi nila na pag di ka nakisama sa sinasabi ni Secretary De Lima, pag di ka sumunod kay Jaybee Sebastian either ipapalipat ka sa ibang kolonya or sa ibang hindi magandang pasilidad or ipapapatay ka,” he said.
De Lima has repeatedly denied allegations that she had pooled campaign funds from tolerating drug syndicates during her term as justice secretary under the Aquino administration.
The senator believes that she is being politically persecuted due to her decision to spearhead a Senate probe into President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs.
Immigration officers have also been directed to keep an eye on De Lima and eight other individuals in the wake of the controversy, which prompted the House of Representatives to hold marathon hearings which ended on Monday evening.
De Lima had snubbed what she called as a “sham inquiry” allegedly aimed at destroying her image in public. — RSJ, GMA News