MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Friday, October 13, formed a 5-person panel to investigate Senator Leila de Lima and 7 others and determine whether or not there’s sufficient basis to bring them to court.
Aguirre assigned Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong as head of the panel, with Senior Assistant City Prosecutors Alexander Ramos, Leila Llanes, Evangeline Viudez-Canobas and Assistant State Prosecutor Editha Fernandez as members.
They will conduct a preliminary probe into 2 separate drug complaints against De Lima and 7 others that were filed with the justice department by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) as well as former former National Bureau of Investigation deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala.
In its complaint, the VACC named De Lima as respondents, along with former justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, De Lima’s former aides Ronnie Dayan, Joenel Sanchez and Jose Adrian Dera, Bucayu’s alleged bagman Wilfredo Ely, and high-profile New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmate Jaybee Sebastian.
The complaint filed by Esmeralda and Lasala named only De Lima and NBI deputy director Rafael Ragos as respondents.
Both complaints accused de Lima and her co-respondents of violating the anti-drug trafficking law. They alleged that De Lima, in her time as justice secretary under the previous Aquino administration, connived with her co-accused to earn from the sale of illegal drugs in the NBP.
Penalty is life imprisonment plus a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million.
De Lima said these are trumped-up complaints meant to harass her as a chief critic of President Rodrigo Duterte. – Rappler.com