Ombudsman clears De Lima in ‘empty’ Abu Sayyaf complaint
MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales dismissed cases against detained Senator Leila de Lima that stemmed from an allegation that she conspired with Muslim officials to free from jail suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
In a resolution dated December 13, 2017, Morales approved the finding that there was no probable cause to indict De Lima and 4 other respondents for violating the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suspension Act, the graft law, and other administrative charges.
Morales also cleared former Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan Sr, former National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) commissioners Mehol Sadain and Edil Baddiri, and private respondent Wendell Sotto.
“In a nutshell, complainants’ allegations are devoid of evidence. Without evidence, allegations are just empty words,” said the resolution penned by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Rolando Manjares, eventually approved by Morales.
Former NCMF commissioner Sadain, on the other hand, was cleared in this case but he was dismissed in 2017 over an anomalous pork barrel release coursed through the NCMF by former senator Gringo Honasan.
In November 2016, Sulu politician and human rights activist Temogen Tulawie filed a complaint against De Lima, Tan Sr et al for “aiding and protecting” Mohammad Sami Said, Jul Ahmad Ahadi, and Robin Sahiyal, who were tagged in the complaint as Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
In 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) – under De Lima – ordered the release of 18 kidnapping suspects for lack of evidence or a case of mistaken identity. Said, Ahadi, and Sahiyal were among those ordered released.
In an entirely separate case, Tulawie faced trial for frustrated murder for a bomb attack in Patikul, Sulu in 2009, which was said to have been an attempt on the life of Tan Sr.
During Tulawie’s trial, a certain Mohammad Sali Ganih alias Sali Said testified that Tulawie was the mastermind in the Patikul ambush. Sali Said is supposedly the same person as Mohammad Sami Said freed by the DOJ.
Tulawie said he has knowledge that Tan Sr promised Sali Said freedom if he would just testify against Tulawie. Tulawie linked Tan Sr to De Lima and said the whole thing was a conspiracy. The NCMF commissioners were tagged because it was the NCMF who endorsed the freedom of the suspects.
In her answer to the Ombudsman, De Lima said that her act of ordering the release of the 18 Muslim Filipinos was due to the efforts of the government then to help Muslim Filipinos who are wrongfully charged and jailed for various crimes.
De Lima said that because they were acquitted, a charge of financing terrorists cannot be applied because they were never convicted as terrorists.
“No evidence is presented that they are Abu Sayyaf members aside from the fact that they were detained at the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) as suspected ASG members,” the resolution said.
While De Lima admitted that Tan Sr was an “incidental client in one instance, (he) definitely was not a regular client for him to establish any close relationship” with her.
The resolution sided with De Lima, saying: “The Office finds no document linking respondents to each other. There is no evidence, nay an allegation, that respondents personally knew, or were acquainted, or in touch with, each other, to inspire or motivate them to enter into conspiracy.”
“Most importantly, this Office finds no evidence to establish complainants’ principal allegations that Said, Ahadi and Sahiyal are Abu Sayyaf terrorists or that respondents knew them to be such,” the resolution said.
When the complaint was filed in late 2016, De Lima dismissed it as another attempt of the Duterte administration to smear her. By February 2017, she was arrested on drug trade charges which she continues to be in detention for today.
Tulawie lost the gubernatorial race in 2016 to Tan Sr’s son and namesake Abdusakur Tan Jr.
Tulawie has filed at least 3 cases against the Tans.
Apart from this case that involved De Lima, Tulawie filed a complaint against the Tans in 2015 for alleged improper declaration of wealth. For that case, the Office of the Ombudsman suspended Governor Tan Jr, and fined the elder Tan who was no longer in office then.
There is a pending kidnapping and graft case against the senior Tan at the Ombudsman for allegedly holding a German journalist for ransom. It was also filed by Tulawie. – Rappler.com
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