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DOJ eyes criminal raps vs De Lima

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – On the eve of a House probe into her alleged links to the illegal drug trade, the justice department said it is preparing criminal charges against Senator Leila de Lima.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said in a press briefing that he is presenting at least 5 witnesses against De Lima at the House probe on Tuesday, September 20. They will prove that she received drug money for her senatorial bid in the May 2016 elections, Aguirre said.

"Yes, there is basis [to file charges] based on the affidavits,” Aguirre told reporters Monday, September 19. “A complaint may be filed and this will undergo preliminary investigation. The nature is on violation of drugs law, [and possibly] anti-graft," Aguirre said. 

De Lima is leading a Senate probe into alleged extrajudicial killings under the Duterte government’s war on drugs. Last week, she produced an alleged former member of the Davao Death Squad, who tagged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his son Paolo as among those who ordered killings in Davao City.

De Lima was ousted on Monday as chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, following Senator Manny Pacquiao’s move on Monday for the Senate to declare all seats in the committee vacant.

Pacquiao’s move came after a privilege speech delivered by Duterte’s key ally and former running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who criticized De Lima for putting the President and the country in a  bad light due to her ongoing probe. De Lima walked out during Cayetano’s speech.

Aguirre said the justice department is now gathering evidence to support the filing graft charges against De Lima for “gross neglect of duty” and other cases arising from her links to the illegal drugs trade in the New Bilibid Prison.

The Department of Justice has also sought the help of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to look into De Lima’s supposed bank accounts, Aguirre said.

A senator is not immune from criminal suit, but he or she is immune from liability for any speech made in session. 

Ex-prisons chief

For Tuesday's scheduled House investigation, expected to testify against De Lima are robbery gang leader Herbert Colangco, who has reportedly executed an affidavit claiming that the senator got millions from drug lords in exchange for allowing drug convicts to continue their illegal operations.

Aside from Colangco, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) acting director Rafael Ragos, National Bureau of Investgation (NBI) agent Junior Ablen and retired police official Rodolfo Magleo are also set to testify against her, Aguirre said.

Aguirre said Ragos, who was the BuCor director in 2014, had executed an affidavit claiming that De Lima personally received on several occasions P5 million in drug money, which he supposedly delivered at her residence. – Rappler.com