SELF-CONFESSED drug lord Kerwin Espinosa went to the Justice Department Friday to affirm his claim that he gave Senator Leila de Lima P8 million in payoffs to use in her election campaign last year.
Escorted by National Bureau of Investigation agents, Espinosa subscribed to the confession that he issued when he appeared before a Senate inquiry on the killing of his father, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa in November 2016.
That confession has been used by the NBI to file drug charges against him, De Lima, and the senator’s former driver and lover, Ronnie Dayan.
De Lima and Dayan skipped the preliminary investigation hearing of the Justice Department, but the senator was represented by her lawyer, Boni Tacardon.
The panel submitted the case for resolution and rejected the request of Espinosa and De Lima for another 15 days to file their counter-affidavits.
The panel gave the respondents until Jan. 13 to submit their written defense, but changed its mind after Tacardon said he would have to consult De Lima.
Questions were also posed to Espinosa, particularly on his meeting with De Lima in Baguio City sometime between Nov. 19 and 22, 2015, where he and his common-law wife had their photos taken with the former Justice secretary.
Espinosa said he gave money to Dayan in several tranches from August 2015 to February 2016.
De Lima has denied the allegation, saying she does not know Espinosa and had never meet with him. However, the NBI said it was convinced that De Lima “benefited greatly” from the illegal drug trade.
“Whether this amount was actually used in the furtherance of her political ambitions is immaterial, as what is essential in this case is the fact that she made a demand for the money and she indeed received the same,” the complaint stated.
“Also immaterial is whether or not she personally or directly received the so-called campaign contributions with her own hands, because Dayan, by his own separate and independent admission, confessed that he was acting for and in her behalf, with her blessing and according to her instructions when he did receive the money for her,” it added.
Tacardon questioned the jurisdiction of the Justice Department panel.
The senator, in an omnibus motion, argued that the Ombudsman has the jurisdiction over public officials like her. She also asked the panel to inhibit itself from handling the case.
“If ever my motion will be denied, then we can take the necessary legal steps by preparing the counter-affidavit of Senator De Lima or raising the matter on appeal,” Tacardon told the panel.
But the panel, led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, said that if Espinosa would no longer change his affidavit, there would no longer be any change to the case.
“Then we will proceed to resolve the case,” Ong said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier said Espinosa was accepted into the witness protection program in December and his department would seek his discharge as a state witness.
De Lima on Friday called Aguirre the “high bishop of the Iglesia ni Duterte” and said she didn’t care for his prayers.
She was reacting to Aguirre’s statement that he would pray for De Lima’s “frailties” that caused her problems.
“Your god is not my God,” said De Lima who also accused Aguirre of transforming the Justice Department into his very own personal persecution team, under “the baton of the lord god and master of the Iglesia ni Duterte.”
“The DoJ has not reached such lows until Aguirre became its secretary,” De Lima said.
Instead of praying for her, she said Aguirre should pray for his vanishing dignity.
“It is the least of your frailties, after your lying and fabrications, your false witnesses, your incompetence as a public official, your threats and intimidation on my former staff, your absolute arrogance and patent abuse of your power as a public official,” said De Lima.
She also suggested that Aguirre will be better off investigating the bribery allegations in one of her agencies involving his own fraternity brothers, rather than pursuing her with trumped-up charges.
De Lima asserted that the Ombudsman, not the Justice Department, was the proper forum to hear the charges against her.
“Mr. Aguirre, please be aware that indeed I am preparing to answer your fabricated charges before the proper forum, but not before kangaroo tribunals like the House and the DoJ panel over which the President holds sway and to whom he dictates his whims,” she said.
Given Aguirre’s prejudgment of her case, she said she would never be accorded due process by the executive branch.
“I do not need a mediocre lawyer like Aguirre telling me what I should be doing, when it appears he is not even capable of doing his own job as secretary of Justice,” she added.
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