MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Two more complaints have been filed against Senator Leila de Lima, one in connection with the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), and another for her alleged links to suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
Former National Bureau of Investigation deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala filed a complaint against the former justice secretary and NBI Deputy Director Rafael Ragos before the Department of Justice on Thursday, October 13, for alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade and conspiracy under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
“Senator De Lima, acting as the mother of all drug lords and through the use of her authority, was able to appoint and designate men inside the Bilibid in order to ensure the perpetuation of illegal drug trade,” the 20-page complaint read.
“Respondents definitely saw how profitable the system established in the Bilibid at that time. Like hungry wolves, they took advantage of their power, influence and resources,” it added, a statement identical to what appeared in a similar complaint filed against De Lima by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption on Tuesday.
When she was justice secretary, De Lima dismissed Esmeralda and Lasala from their NBI posts, citing “lingering integrity issues” and supposed links to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
The complainants cited the testimony of their former colleague, Ragos, and other testimonies at the House inquiry into the illegal drug trade at the Bilibid when De Lima was justice secretary.
Ragos had earlier testified before the congressional inquiry that he personally delivered P5 million ($103,296) in drug money to the residence of De Lima in Parañaque City in 2012, and handed the amount to De Lima’s bodyguard and driver then, Ronnie Dayan.
Except for former De Lima aide Joenel Sanchez who refused it, witnesses at the congressional inquiry – mostly convicts serving life terms – were granted immunity from suit for anything they may say at the House probe. (READ: LIST: Witnesses vs De Lima who were granted immunity)
The complainants said that based on the testimony of Ragos and the corroborating statements of NBI agent Jovencio Ablen Jr and convict Jojo Baligad at the House probe, the respondents allegedly “acted in conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade.”
The complainants’ lawyer, Eduardo Bringas, said the former NBI officials decided to include Ragos in the complaint even he was granted him immunity from suit for his testimony at the House inquiry.
“His immunity was with regard only to the statement he gave. But there is corroborating witness, Ablen, that’s why we included him,” Bringas explained.
Esmeralda and Lasala served as NBI deputy directors for intelligence service and special investigation services, respectively, until De Lima ordered their dismissal in March 2014. They said their complaint is not motivated by revenge against their former boss.
“Definitely no [ax to grind]. There are pieces of evidence we gathered and it’s about time we file the charges also to give her due process,” Esmeralda said in response to reporters’ questions.
De Lima and her co-respondent face life terms and fines ranging from P500,000 to P10 million, if convicted.
On Tuesday, the VACC filed a drug trafficking complaint against De Lima and 7 others before the DOJ, also anchored on the testimonies at the House inquiry.
De Lima: ‘Web of lies’
The senator said she was no longer surprised that more “fabricated” cases are being filed against her.
In the case of Esmeralda and Lasala, De Lima said the two “shady characters” have a grudge against her.
The two were not reappointed by then President Benigno Aquino III after hearing negative reports about them.
“Ang alam ko sila talaga ang nag-a-assist talaga kay Secretary Aguirre. Mga shady characters yan. ‘Yan po malaki ang galit sa akin kasi naalala ‘nyo po, mga dating deputy directors po yan. Hindi na po sila na-reappoint ng Pangulo, ng Pangulong PNoy, noong nakatanggap po ng derogatory information ang Pangulo tungkol sa kanila,” De Lima said.
(I know they are the ones assisting Secretary Aguirre. They are shady characters. They have a grudge against me because remember they are deputy directors who weren’t reappointed by the President, President PNoy, when he received derogatory information about them.)
She told her then boss that the two were supposedly known to be “notorious” men inside the NBI.
“Now, tinanong po sa akin ng Pangulo ‘yan, kung totoo, na medyo notorious ‘yung dalawa na ‘yun. Ang sinagot ko, ‘yun po ang mga naririnig ko – mga notorious ‘yan, mga feeling untouchables sila sa NBI,” she said.
(The President asked me if it’s true that they are somewhat notorious. I told him that’s what I hear about them – that they are notorious and feeling untouchables in the NBI.)
In Tacloban City, Leyte, Chief Inspector Juvy Espinido, Albuera town police chiefJ late Wednesday afternoon, October 12, filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against De Lima and several others, including Barangay Bonolho Councilor Nelson Pepito Jr, for allegedly receiving drug money from Kerwin Espinosa.
De Lima denied the latest allegation. (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)
“Kasama na naman yan sa web of lies. Lahat na lang nagbibigay sa akin ng pera. Lahat na lang may [link] sa akin. Sobra-sobra na talaga. (That’s part of their web if lies. Everybody is giving me money. Everybody is linked to me. It’s really too much). I don’t know Espinosa,” she said.
A photo of De Lima flanked by Kerwin Espinosa and an unidentified woman, taken in Baguio City in March this year during the campaign, had been used by her critics to link her to the alleged drug lord. The senator reiterated that she didn’t know who he was at the time.
“Di ko naman kilala na siya pala ‘yun (I didn’t know that it was him),” she said.
“Evidence ba ‘yun na kilala ko sila? Evidence ba ‘yun na tumatanggap? Evidence ba ‘yun na may alleged payola? Sino yang chief na ‘yan? (Is that evidence that I know him? Is that evidence that I accept [money from him]? Is that evidence that there is alleged payola? Who is that chief?)” De Lima added.
The senator has repeatedly denied her alleged drug links first divulged by President Rodrigo Duterte in a public address in August. The two have a long-running enmity, sparked by De Lima’s investigation of the Davao Death Squad reportedly controlled by the then Davao City mayor, when she was Commission on Human Rights chief during the Arroyo administration.
Their feud was revived when De Lima initiated a Senate inquiry into the spate of killings linked to the Duterte administration’s controversial war on drugs. – with reports from Camille Elemia and Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler.com
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