MANILA - Senator Leila De Lima will no longer have an opportunity to submit her defense before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on drug trafficking charges in connection with the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade.
This, as the DOJ investigating panel junked her motion for the department's inhibition in the four consolidated drug cases and the transfer of the cases to the Office of the Ombudsman, citing, among others, the Ombudsman's primary jurisdiction over cases involving public officials and the DOJ's alleged bias against her.
"No other pleadings shall be submitted [from here on]... these cases are now submitted for resolution," said Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, panel chairman, during the hearing.
Ong, addressing De Lima's lawyer, Bonifacio Tacardon, stressed that the lawmaker had ample time to submit her counter-affidavit, which she refused to honor. De Lima did not attend the hearing and was represented by Tacardon.
Aside from De Lima, her erstwhile driver and partner, Ronnie Dayan, and former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Franklin Jesus Bucayu also failed to appear and submit their respective counter-affidavits.
Other respondents, led by former Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III; former BuCor OIC Rafael Ragos; De Lima's former security aide Jonel Sanchez; and NBP inmate Jaybee Sebastian, submitted their counter affidavits in denial of the charges, although Sebastian's has yet to be signed and personally subscribed.
‘DIVA OF DRUGS’
As announced in a previous news conference, Solicitor General Jose Calida entered his appearance as co-counsel for complainants Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC); and Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala, former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Directors.
"I came here as tribune of the people. The law also gives me the discretion to represent the people whenever justice requires it," Calida told the panel.
Tacardon opposed Calida's appearance, saying there may be likely conflict when the cases reach the courts. The panel, through Ong, however emphasized that it was important that VACC was present in the proceedings and ably represented by a counsel regardless of whether it was the Office of the Solicitor General or private lawyers.
After the hearing, Calida, in an ambush interview, called De Lima the "Diva of Drugs."
NBI and Sebastian are the two other complainants in the consolidated cases.