De Lima's co-accused in drug case arrested; denies drug links
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Senator Leila de Lima's co-accused in two drug charges was arrested in Angeles, Pampanga, early morning of Friday, August 16.
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin confirmed the arrest of Jose Adrian "Jad" Dera, who insisted innocence in the Bilbid drug trade and claimed he was linked to a convicted drug lord only because he was a police asset.
Dera, who is also identified in the charge sheets as Jad de Vera, is facing two counts of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade. His charges are handled by Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branches 205 and 256. The Department of Justice (DOJ) identified Dera as De Lima's nephew.
During a press conference at the NBI on Friday afternoon, Dera's lawyer Raymond Palad repeated the statements made by his client in his affidavit that he was an asset of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
"Hindi siya alalay, hindi sya aide, hindi siya pamangkin (He's not an assistant, he's not an aide, he's not a nephew of De Lima)," Palad said.
On Saturday, August 17, De Lima reiterated that she had no links to Dera. "This story about his alleged delivery of money to me from Bilibid inmates is but another grand work of fiction. A never-ending tale of lies," she added.
In his affidavit sent to the NBI in October 2016, when he was first mentioned as having links to the Bilibid drug trade, Dera said he came to know convict Hans Tan because the latter had helped him fend off a man named Brix who was threatening his family.
Dera said Tan reached out to him later to ask for help to convey to De Lima to move them back to the maximum compound. Dera said that he reached out to police contacts which led him to Police Inspector Michael Yap of the National Capital Region Police Office.
Dera said Yap made him an asset. Dera said that as part of Yap's operations, he bought shabu from Tan on 3 different occasions in 2016. Dera said he turned over all bought shabu to Yap.
Dera also said in his affidavit that he is "not in any way connected to De Lima."
"If he is an alpha of the PNP, why don't the PNP come out now?" Palad said.
Cleared by the NBI
NBI deputy director for operations Vicente de Guzman III said during the press conference that Dera has passed their investigation. The NBI did not include Dera in their initial complaint; it was the DOJ that pressed charges against Dera.
"As far as our investigation was concerned, we didn't see any involvement, it so happened that based on the evaluation of the National Prosecution Service, in the testimony of Peter Co, he said that he gave P5 million on two occasions to Jad for the candidacy of De Lima," De Guzman said in a mix of English and Filipino.
De Lima had also repeatedly insisted he does not know Dera.
"I do not know Mr Dera at all. He is not a nephew or a relative of mine of any degree. He has not worked for me as an aide or in any capacity. I simply do not know him from Adam," De Lima had said in 2017.
The senator had also said that "Dera himself already denied any relationship or connection to me whatsoever."
Dera was the last accused in the De Lima charges to be arrested.
Dera is accused in two charges as having allegedly conspired with the senator to induce Bilibid inmates to trade drugs.
In the first case, De Lima allegedly conspired with co-accused former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Jesus Bucayu and were able to get P70 million from high-profile inmates with Dera as the conduit.
In the second case, De Lima was allegedly able to extort P30 million and 4 vehicles from inmate Peter Co with Dera again as the conduit.
De Lima had denied the allegation, saying that she had never " received, directly or indirectly, any money or vehicles from Peter Co or any other drug convict / drug lord."
Charges against the inmates who traded drugs in prison had been dropped so they could be used as witnesses. De Lima had questioned the legality of using convicts as witnesses before the Court of Appeals.
Palad said they will present documentary evidence of the PNP enlisting the services of Dera as an asset.
"We are confident that between the testimony of a convicted prisoner as against our papers, makakalusot naman kami diyan (we will pass scrutiny)," Palad said.
Should Dera change his story, De Lima's lawyer Boni Tacardon said earlier affidavits will hold more weight.
"'Yung Jose Adrian Dera, dokumentado na 'yung kanyang pag-deny sa sinasabing relasyon, at 'yung sinasabing pag-deliver niya ng pera. So we are holding on to that. Tingin namin hindi na niya puwedeng bawiin 'yun. Nasa korte na 'yan. Nasa record na 'yan eh," said Tacardon.
(The case with Jose Adrian Dera, his denial of supposed relations to De Lima and the supposed deliveries, they're documented. So we are holding on to that. We think he can no longer retract because it's already in court record.) – Rappler.com