MANILA—Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reiterated that the cases filed by the agency against its former chief and now Senator Leila De Lima are not politically motivated.
“(The) cases filed against Senator de Lima are all criminal in nature. Some of these cases involved illegal drugs. They are not politically motivated,” Aguirre said in a statement on Saturday.
With this, the DOJ chief stressed that De Lima should not refer to herself as a “political prisoner” as the raps against her have nothing to do with her political stand.
“Drug cases do not involve one’s political beliefs. It involves one’s choice to be involved in illegal drugs,” he said adding that he inhibited himself from the raps filed against the lady senator.
The DOJ Secretary also insisted that the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the three cases filed, regardless of the high position of De Lima as respondent.
”On the matter of jurisdiction, it is the RTC that has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the three cases, regardless of the high position of the respondent. Trading in illegal drugs has no connection with the performance of her duties as Secretary of Justice,” he explained.
Aguirre also cited that De Lima and his other predecessors in the agency have done the same during their term when they prosecuted several high-ranking officials such as former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos and Commissioner Alfredo Benipayo and former Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos.
On Friday, the DOJ filed drug raps against De Lima at the Muntinlupa RTC in connection to her alleged involvement in the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her term as DOJ chief.
De Lima was charged for violation of Section 5 (sale and trading of illegal drugs) in relation to Section 3 (jj); Section 26 (b), and Section 28 (criminal liability of government officials and employees) of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Apart from De Lima, those named as her co-accused are her former lover and driver Ronnie Dayan and her nephew Jose Adrian Dera, each facing two counts.
Her other co-accused charged with one count each are former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Franklin Jesus Bucayu; Bucayu’s alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli; high-profile Bilibid inmate Jaybee Sebastian; National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Director Rafael Ragos; and de Lima’s former aide Joenel Sanchez.
The charges were filed after the DOJ panel of prosecutors also issued a 52-page resolution dated February 14 on the consolidated criminal complaints filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC); the NBI; former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Rule Lasala; and high-profile Bilibid inmate and self-confessed drug trader Jaybee Sebastian.
In the resolution, the DOj prosecutors dismissed the complaint against Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III for “insufficiency of evidence.”
Prosecutors also dismissed the complaints against high-profile Bilibid inmates Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad and Wu Tuan Yuan, also known as Peter Co, since “they will be utilized as Prosecution witnesses.”
On the other hand, prosecutors “indorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman for its appropriate action” the criminal complaints for violating RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; RA 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; Presidential Decree (PD) No. 46, known as the Act Punishing the Receiving and Giving of Gifts of Public Officials and Employees; and direct bribery and indirect bribery under the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
In the same resolution, the DOJ prosecutors, on the instruction of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, were directed to conduct further investigation on the alleged extortion activities of religious pastor Danilo Rico inside the NBP; Dera’s alleged kidnapping of Peter Co’s niece Sally in March 2016; and the illegal drug activities and related offenses committed by self-confessed drug trader Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa.
The resolution approved by Prosecutor General Victor Sepulveda was signed by the DOJ panel of prosecutors composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, Assistant State Prosecutor Editha Fernandez, and Senior Assistant City Prosecutors Alexander Ramos, Leilia Llanes and Evangeline Viudez-Canobas.