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Monday, May 20, 2024

De Lima gets 6th case

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ANOTHER criminal complaint—this time for drug trafficking and graft—has been filed against Senator Leila de Lima, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III said Thursday.

The National Bureau of Investigation filed the charges against De Lima, her former driver and lover Ronnie Dayan and alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, Aguirre said.

This is the sixth criminal case filed against the former Justice secretary after she was implicated in the illegal drug trade in two congressional inquiries.

The five earlier complaints were filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, the NBI, former NBI deputy directors Ruel Lasala and Reynaldo Esmeralda, inmate Jaybee Sebastian and House leaders.

Senator Leila de Lima

Aguirre said the latest case against De Lima involves Espinosa’s testimony in the Senate that he delivered P8 million in drug money to De Lima and Dayan.

Aguirre said the new case would not be consolidated with the five earlier cases. The case for disobedience to summons filed by House leaders was already filed before a Quezon City regional trial court, while the other four have already been submitted for resolution.

“I think the new case will be resolved separately because I believe the first four cases will be resolved already by this month,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre said while Espinosa was included by the NBI in the latest complaint against De Lima, the charges against him could later be dropped.

The DoJ chief also admitted that Espinosa has been accepted by the DoJ as a state witness after passing the criteria under the witness protection program.

“He [Espinosa] was placed under permanent coverage of the WPP before Christmas,” he said.

“The prosecution will later on ask for the dismissal of charges against Kerwin or for the dropping of Kerwin as one of the accused. But it will still depend on the court,” Aguirre said.

Witnesses covered by WPP are given several privileges, including provision of a housing facility or safe house that could be extended to members of their families, financial assistance, assistance in obtaining means of livelihood, payment equivalent of salary as compensation for absences in work, travel expenses and medical expenses.

In cases of death, they would also be given benefits, including free college education for their children.

Aside from drug charges, Espinosa is facing a separate case for possession of illegal drugs and firearms before a Leyte court.

Aguirre on Thursday responded to De Lima’s attacks on him as “a Justice secretary without balls” by saying this was a “frailty of her character.”

“Instead of facing the charges filed against her with concrete evidence in the many opportunities given to her, she can only come up with names for me like a despicable lying bastard, a chronic liar, a Secretary of Justice without balls. It is indeed not the kind of conduct that the Filipino people expect from a public official of her stature,” Aguirre said, in a press conference.

“I can only pray for her. Please join me in praying for her,” Aguirre added.

Aguirre said De Lima’s assertion that President Rodrigo Duterte was behind the attempted killing of Sebastian had no basis.

“What will the President get if Sebastian is killed? If I were the President, I would want Sebastian to live so he could speak and divulge the truth,” he said.

He added that De Lima could not even produce a single witness or evidence to support her insinuation.

Also on Thursday, the Department of Justice said it found sufficient basis to indict self-confessed hitman and Davao death squad member Edgar Matobato for his involvement in the botched attempt to kill a Department of Agriculture adjudicator in Digos City over two years ago.

In a resolution, the Digos City prosecutor’s office found probable cause in the frustrated murder complaint filed by Abeto Salcedo Jr. against Matobato.

Aguirre said the case against Matobato will be filed before the trial court in the following days.

The DoJ approved the prosecution of Matobato after he testified before a Senate inquiry and implicated President Duterte as the mastermind of the Davao Death Squad that was blamed for the death of more than 1,000 people in Davao City.

The preliminary investigation showed that the incident took place in October 2014 when Salcedo was leaving his office in Digos City.

Matobato shot Salcedo, a former adjudicator at DA–Southern Mindanao, several times, but the latter survived the attack.

Matobato earlier denied the charges, telling a Senate inquiry that he was under the DoJ’s Witness Protection Program when the incident took place.

The hitman claimed he killed several individuals on President Duterte’s orders during his terms as city mayor of Davao.

Matobato was admitted to the WPP by De Lima when she was still Justice secretary.

The Palace has denied the allegations of Matobato, which have not been backed by supporting evidence so far. 


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