MANILA–Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Sunday said that there was no deal between the government and Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino who is willing to testify on the drug charges against former Justice Secretary and detained Senator Leila De Lima
Aguirre made the statement in response to De Lima’s accusation saying that the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped the charges against Marcelino in exchange for his testimony on her alleged involvement in illegal drugs.
The DOJ chief believes that De Lima fears that the truth on her involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison when she was still Secretary of Justice will be revealed.
“There is no such deal. She is imagining things. Her conscience is just bothering her,” Aguirre said.
For her part, Marcelino’s lawyer, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta said that the decision of the DOJ to withdraw the case against Marcelino and his Chinese asset Yan Yi Shou was correct as it was upheld by Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 49 and was consistent with the earlier finding of the Quezon City RTC, which granted the bail petition of the prominent drug buster.
“The order of the court finding that the motion to withdraw information is meritorious and in accord with truth, justice and law,” Acosta said.
She said that Marcelino has already submitted his affidavit against the senator even before the DOJ indicted him in court and later on withdrew the case.
“There’s no deal. He (Marcelino) already had an affidavit since the House committee of justice hearing on the Bilibid drug trade last year and he went there to testify voluntarily but was not allowed to testify,” Acosta recalled in an interview.
“That alleged deal is speculative,” Acosta pointed out.
And just like Aguirre, Acosta questioned the motive of De Lima in raising the allegation.
“Why is she reacting like that? Does she expect Marcelino to have knowledge about her?” she asked.
Aguirre said on Friday that Marcelino might be among the government’s witnesses who will testify on the drug charges against De Lima.
Aguirre explained Marcelino, who had been an official of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), could be used to testify in the three drug charges De Lima is currently facing in connection with the proliferation of narcotics at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
“Kung saka-sakali gamitin pag-testify, as additional witness (If he will be used he can be utilized as additional witness),” said the DOJ chief.
Aguirre said he will leave it up to Acosta to discuss the matter with Marcelino.
“Bahala sila mag-usap dalawa. Siya ang lawyer. If they could use him, eh di gagawin po natin yun (It’s up to them to talk. Acosta is his lawyer. If he can be used then we will do it),” he noted.
Marcelino was recently released from detention after the DOJ withdrew the illegal drug case filed against him and his Chinese companion Yan Yi Shou.
Aguirre said Marcelino can testify on about his conversation with De Lima when she visited him in detention as well as about why the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) have been left out in the raid conducted at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Marcelino, in his affidavit submitted to Congress last year revealed that De Lima visited him while he was detained at the PNP Custodial Center and discussed the dismantling of the biggest shabu laboratory in the country.
On Thursday, Acosta said that Marcelino is willing to testify against De Lima.
”Anytime sabi niya, he can testify. Pero kung ano ang itetestify niya, hindi natin alam. Abangan na lang natin ang mangyayari if the government will utilize him in Bilibid drug case,” Acosta told reporters during the press conference where she announced the DOJ junked the drug charges against Marcelino and his Chinese cohort Yan Yi Shou.
Earlier, Marcelino agreed to testify on the congressional inquiry on the drug proliferation inside the national penitentiary and against De Lima but Congress has decided to forego with his testimony and decided to refer the matter to the House Committee on Public Safety.
De Lima, who is 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.