MANILA– Detained Senator Leila De Lima on Monday pleaded not guilty before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court on criminal charges for advising her former driver and boyfriend Ronnie Dayan to snub the house investigation on the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison.
Quezon City MeTC Branch 34 Judge Ma. Ludmila D. Pio-Lim entered the not guilty plea on behalf of De Lima, who was present during her arraignment.
The first timer Senator is facing charges of violating Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) for disobeying summons issued by the national assembly, its committee or subcommittees.
The complainants include House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas and House Committee on Justice Chairman Reynaldo Umali.
De Lima’s arraignment pushed through after the court denied her motion for reconsideration on the finding of probable cause for being “filed out of time.”
The court then proceeded with the preliminary conference where De Lima’s camp refused to stipulate on the copy of De Lima’s supposed text message to Hanna Mae, daughter of Ronnie Dayan because it was not authenticated.
De Lima allegedly texted Dayan’s daughter to tell her father not to attend at the Congressional inquiry on the proliferation of illegal drugs inside Bilibid.
De Lima and Dayan had both admitted that they were previously in a relationship. De Lima said it lasted for several years, while Dayan said they were together for seven years.
The prosecution has submitted an amended information on the case to change its wordings from “advising” Dayan not to attend the hearing to “instructing” Dayan in the amended complaint.
Among the evidence provisionally marked by the prosecution include the House of Representative’s subpoena, show cause order, order of contempt and the photocopy of De Lima’s supposed SMS to Dayan’s daughter.
Alvarez is the prosecution’s first witness against De Lima.
Aside from Alvarez, Fariñas and Umali are also expected to testify. The Department of Justice (DOJ) said they also have six other witnesses to testify against the Senator.
Hearing is set on April 26. The court required De Lima to appear on every hearing.
On the other hand, De Lima’s camp has marked as evidence the House of Representative’s subpoena, counter affidavit and transcript of stenographic notes of the Congressional hearing. They have no other witness except De Lima.
Violation of Article 150 has a penalty of arresto mayor or one month and one day up to six months of imprisonment or a fine ranging from Php 200 to Php 1,000 or both (fine and imprisonment).
De Lima, now detained at the PNP custodial center, argued that the allegations against her do not actually constitute sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act), but rather only direct bribery.
Separate cases for three counts of drug trafficking were filed against De Lima before the Muntinlupa RTC which were assigned to three different courts.
The cases for sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act) were assigned to RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero, Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz and Branch 206 Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon.
The first case in Branch 204 includes De Lima, Dayan and Ragos.
De Lima was joined by her nephew Jose Adrian Dera in the second case in Branch 205.
The third case in Branch 206 was against De Lima, Dera, Dayan, former BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu, his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, and De Lima’s former bodyguard Jonel Sanchez.