PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said Senator Leila de Lima was so far the highest elected government official to use drug money to win office, but asked government lawyers to see if there were any officials higher than her who condoned the illegal drug trade.
“I thought before that narco-politics wasn’t evident in this country, but as the revelations would show, De Lima was elected using drug money,” Duterte said in a chance interview in Davao City.
Others who benefitted from drug money could number in the thousands, he said, and include congressmen, judges and barangay captains.
Duterte, who asked De Lima to hang herself for “screwing the nation,” said that Justice officials are now starting to probe the accountability of other high officials under the Aquino administration who might have also benefitted from the illegal drug trade.
“At that time when I said you better ‘hang yourself,’ I knew already about everything. I had already read the testimonies and talked with the people involved,” Duterte said.
He added that he would leave it up to Justice Department officials to conduct further investigations.
“I don’t want it to appear that I’m chasing my enemies,” he said.
Duterte recently supported a move to postpone the barangay elections for fear that drug money would seep into the process.
Earlier, the President accused De Lima of taking money from drug lords inside the New Bilibid Prison when she was still Justice secretary to bankroll her run for the Senate.
He said she used her long time driver and bodyguard, Ronnie Dayan, as a bag man.
Recently, the President said he had a list of some 1,000 politicians and public officials involved in the drug trade, including policemen, judges, barangay captains, mayors and governors.
Duterte also dismissed De Lima’s accusation that the government was fabricating evidence against her, saying the testimony of so many witnesses could not be orchestrated.
Duterte again defended his campaign against illegal drugs, which has drawn widespread international condemnation for the rising death toll of drug suspects, now numbering more than 3,000.
Some of these killings, he said, were carried out by rival drug gangs.
On Thursday, Duterte challenged the United Nations and the European Union to send their observers to the Philippines to investigate his administration’s war on drugs.
The invitation however, would be made on the condition they also agree to be grilled by him personally.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, meanwhile, said the National Bureau of Investigation would investigate the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison after the Justice Department received bank documents from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) related to possible drug transactions.
Aguirre said the NBI has been ordered to determine if the proceeds from these transactions went to people linked to the drug trade, such as De Lima.
He also hinted that some private corporations may also have benefitted from the drug trade, but declined to say which companies might be involved.
De Lima has consistently denied government charges against her.
Also on Friday, Aguirre said he doubted De Lima’s claim that NBP drug lord Jaybee Sebastian was a government asset that was working for the Justice Department.
Aguirre said Sebastian could not be considered a government asset since he was involved in the illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prisons.
“How can I believe that Jaybee Sebastian is an asset when you allowed him to lead the drug trade inside [the NBP in] Muntinlupa?” Aguirre said.
He added that if Sebastian was government asset, his name should be on the list of agencies such as the NBI or the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, not under the office of the Justice secretary.
In December 2014, De Lima personally led the raid at the maximum-security compound of the NBP where authorities recovered contraband items such as illegal drugs, arms and ammunition, cellular phones, pornographic materials, luxury items and cash. She then ordered the transfer of 19 high-profile inmates to the NBI as part of the crackdown on illegal drug trade inside the NBP, but Sebastian was not among those transferred.
Witnesses presented before the House Committee on Justice hearing on the proliferation of the illegal drugs inside the NBP testified that Sebastian was given preferential treatment by De Lima because he was tasked to collect drug money to help finance her senatorial bid.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.