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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 ordered the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday, February 23, over one of 3 criminal charges filed against her.
The cases stemmed from her alleged link to the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when she was justice chief.
What exactly is De Lima being accused of?
Branch 204 is handling Criminal Case Number 17-165, one count of violation of Section 5 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which penalizes the “sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of illegal drugs.”
According to the charge sheet, between November 2012 and March 2013, De Lima and former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos allegedly extorted money from Bilibid inmates.
According to the charge sheet, De Lima allegedly asked money from the inmates to fund her senatorial bid in 2016.
The inmates, according to state prosecutors, traded and trafficked drugs inside prison and were able to produce P5 million in November 2012, and another P5 million in December 2012. The inmates are the same ones who testified against De Lima in a probe before the House of Represenatives.
This combined P10 million, with the addition of P100,000 collected from the “tara” of each of the high-profile drug inmates in NBP, was allegedly given to De Lima through Ragos and De Lima’s former aide, Ronnie Dayan. (READ: 3 women judges to hear De Lima drug cases)
The second count of drug trade, handled by Branch 206, was filed against De Lima; former BuCor chief Franklin Jesus Bucayu; Bucayu’s former staff, Wilfredo Elli; inmate Jaybee Sebastian; Dayan; De Lima’s former security aide, Joenel Sanchez; and a certain Jad de Vera.
The charge sheet accused De Lima and Bucayu of tolerating the “widespread drug trade” inside the maximum security compound. This was from May 2013 to May 2015, according to the charge sheet.
De Lima and Bucayu allegedly conspired with Elli, a former police; and Sanchez, who was a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) assigned to De Lima, to again extort money from unnamed inmates.
This time, the inmates were able to allegedly produce P70 million, which was given to De Lima through Sebastian, Sanchez, and De Vera. Part of the money was also allegedly given to Bucayu through Elli.
Bucayu and De Lima allegedly raided the maximum security compound after that, but spared Sebastian to allow him to have sole control of the drug trade.
Criminal Case Number 17-166, handled by Branch 205, is another count of drug trade against De Lima and De Vera.
De Lima and De Vera allegedly had influence over high-profile inmate Peter Co.
As in the other two cases, De Lima allegedly extorted money from Co, who was able to produce P30 million and 4 vehicles which were given to De Lima through De Vera. This allegedly happened in March 2016.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed the drug charges against inmates Herbert Colanggo, Engelbert Durano, Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad, and Peter Co because “they will be utilized as prosecution witnesses.”
De Lima’s camp has filed motions to quash before the courts. Aside from the question of jurisdiction, which De Lima has also pleaded before the Court of Appeals (CA), the senator’s lawyers are arguing that the information does not constitute the crime of drug trade.
In their motion, they said that if the allegations are true, De Lima’s participation only falls under Section 26 of the Dangerous Drugs Act which is attempt or conspiracy.
De Lima’s lawyer, Alexander Padilla, told Rappler that the charges of drug trade were intentional on the part of the DOJ to ensure that the charges will be non-bailable.
Violators of Section 5 of the Dangerous Drugs Act face 12 years to life imprisonment. Under criminal procedures, “no person charged with an offense punishable by life imprisonment shall be admitted to bail regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution.”
Padilla also questioned the filing of 3 separate complaints when they could have consolidated them into one to constitute drug trade.
“Umaasa siguro ang gobyerno na madismiss man ang dalawa ay baka ‘yung isa ay magkulong pa rin (Maybe the government was counting on the odds that if ever two charges are dismissed, she will still be jailed for the remaining one),” Padilla said.
At this stage, before actual trial, De Lima is not yet expected to present evidence. – Rappler.com