MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte stood by his allegation that Senator Leila de Lima was involved in the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she headed the justice department, and vowed to prove it.
"She's lying through her teeth," Duterte said of De Lima's categorical denial of her alleged drug links, in a news briefing during the first hours of Sunday, August 21.
The President said he called for the press conference, which was supposed to begin at 10 pm on Saturday but started past 1 am on Sunday, because of calls he received from his female relatives – some from the United States – criticizing him for mentioning De Lima's alleged affair with her former driver and bodyguard, which was a personal matter.
He said he explained to them that he had to reveal that alleged connection because it would establish how the driver of a Cabinet secretary managed to get "privileges" for drug lords in the maximum security prison, to the extent of even allowing the latter to "cook" methampethamine or shabu while in prison.
To De Lima, he said, "Senator De Lima, it was your greed and immorality that did you in….I think it's beyond your control already."
He said that the some NBP employees have expressed willingness to cooperate with authorities regarding De Lima's alleged drug links.
Duterte admitted, however, that he learned the alleged involvement of De Lima's former driver, Ronnie Dayan, in Bilibid drugs only through intercepts of a "friendly country" shared with the Philippine government, which are not admissible in court.
He did not divulge the foreign government, but said he asked permission to reveal it in public. Duterte also said that particular country "is also mad at De Lima because she's involved in drugs."
Cooperate in investigation
Duterte warned all NBP personnel to cooperate in the investigtion.
"Remember this: when we start to ask questions, you better tell us the truth, or else, I will charge you all – superintendents, wardens, supervisors – the case of conspiracy to commit a serious wrong, or at the very least, seriously neglecting your duty," Duterte said.
"You were there for almost all the time that these things happened. Do you mean to say that you did not report it to your superiors? Or you allowed these things to happen by yourself, only your authority and nobody else's?.... It could not have happened without your connivance. It could only mean conspiracy," he added.
The President also mentioned the planned House inquiry into the proliferation of illegal drugs in the NBP when De Lima was justice secretary, where Bilibid personnel would likely be summoned to attend.
"In the meantime that we are now waiting for the House of Representatives, which is also conducting its own probe, I urge De Lima to proceed with her investigation," Duterte said.
De Lima had categorically denied she ever accepted drug money and said she was willing to be shot in front of the President if there is "genuine" evidence to prove this.
When she was DOJ chief, she led 30 surprise inspections of the NBP, and sacked prison officials and guards after some inmates were found to enjoy VIP treatment and privileges.
The President's attack on De Lima came days ahead of the Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings in the government's war on drugs, which the senator will lead. – Rappler.com