Sen. Leila de Lima (Photo by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/Philippine Daily Inquirer)
Updated: 9:37 p.m., Feb. 17, 2017
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed on Friday three cases against Sen. Leila de Lima and others for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
The three complaints were filed at 2:15 p.m. at the Office the Clerk of Court of the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court.
Also accused in the first complaint were Ronnie Dayan, the senator’s former driver-bodyguard, and Rafael Ragos, former director of the Bureau of Corrections and deputy director of intelligence of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
In the second complaint, the co-accused were Franklin Bucayu, former BuCor director, and Jose Adrian Dera. alias Jad De Vera, a nephew and close-in security detail of De Lima.
In the third complaint, the co-accused were De Lima’s former security aides Dayan, Dera, and Joenel Sanchez; Bucayu and his staff and alleged bagman Col. Wilfredo Elli, and Jaybee Sebastian, a high-profile inmate at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
All were charged with violation of Section 5, in relation to Section 3(jj), Section 26(b) and Section 28 of Republic Act No. 9165, for the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs at the NBP during De Lima’s term as justice secretary.
The cases will be raffled at 1 p.m. on Monday to determine the branch that will hear the cases.
Charges against other accused dropped
While the prosecution panel filed three drug-related complaints to a regular court, it filed a resolution referring another case to the Office of the Ombudsman, which it said would have rightful jurisdiction over it based on the testimony of confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
The case accused De Lima of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said in a news conference.
Under the resolution, drug charges were also dismissed against former Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, an official who worked under De Lima, for lack of evidence.
Charges were also dropped against five high-profile convicts who had testified against De Lima – Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Acenas Durano, Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad, and Wu Tuan Yuan, alias Peter Co.
These people “will be utilized as prosecution witnesses,” the resolution explained.
“This is not just about politicking,” Aguirre said. “If this was just about politics, then why didn’t we include Baraan, who was an undersecretary (under De Lima). But the evidence against him was insufficient, so the five-man panel dismissed the case.”
“That is why this is not a product of politicking,” he added. “This is a product of the drug trade.”
‘RTC is proper venue for De Lima’
Aguirre further justified the filing of the cases before a Muntinlupa RTC, even though De Lima is a public official, who should then be under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan if put under criminal trial.
He said charges such as the “trade and sale of drugs… belong to the jurisdiction of the RTC.”
“It is but right and proper that it be filed before the RTC,” he said.
He added that the Ombudsman did not take the cases from them.
“As a matter of fact, even during the preliminary investigation, because the Ombudsman has primary jurisdiction, the Ombudsman could have taken over the conduct of the preliminary investigation and demand these cases be forwarded to them,” Aguirre said. “But the Ombudsman did not do it and let the DOJ panel of prosecutors invetsigate preliminarily until its terminated until filed today at RTC.”
He added that the drug-related charges “are not cognizable by the Sandiganbayan.”
“And this is the reason why this is filed before RTCs,” he said. /atm /rga