‘Face the music,’ Duterte tells senator
IT’S the end of the road for Sen. Leila de Lima, as far as President Rodrigo Duterte is concerned.
Duterte made the statement Friday after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed before the Muntinlupa Regional
Trial Court three criminal cases against de Lima for allegedly abetting the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary when she was Justice secretry.
Speaking to reporters, Duterte said the charges against de Lima were “strong,” saying that it took months and several witnesses to build the drug trafficking cases.
“She has to face the music. Actually there are a lot of witnesses. It took months to develop the case,” Duterte said during a chance interview in Davao City.
“Filipinos know that. Filipinos know her style,” the President added.
The Justice department proceeded with the case on Friday after the Court of Appeals junked the senator’s plea for a temporary restraining order to halt the DOJ proceedings.
De Lima was charged for violating Section 5 (sale and trading of illegal drugs) in relation to Section 3 (jj), Section 26 (b) and Section 28 (criminal liability of government officials and employees) of Republic Act (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
The cases will be raffled off to a judge who can issue an arrest warrant and hold departure order against de Lima, a staunch critic of the government’s war on illegal drugs.
The court will determine if the evidence of guilt is strong or not, for de Lima to avail herself of the right to bail. If the evidence of guilt is strong, de Lima will not be allowed to post bail and will be arrested.
‘First political prisoner’
De Lima on Friday maintained her innocence and said she was prepared to be the first political prisoner under Duterte administration, noting that the criminal charges were politically motivated and meant to clamp down on any opposition to the government’s bloody drug war.
“This is travesty of truth and justice. Plain and simple political persecution. I will fight this out for as long as I can. They can never break my spirit,” de Lima said in response to the filing of charges against her.
“Change has, indeed, come, and it has come to devour our sense of justice and morality – where right is turned to wrong and wrong is made right,” de Lima said in a statement.
De Lima said that if her freedom was the price for going against the “butchery” of the Duterte regime, she was willing to pay for it.
“The fight doesn’t end here. It has only begun,” she said.
As a matter of practice in the lower courts, de Lima can file a motion for the judicial determination of probable cause. This falls under the discretion of the judge, if there exists prima facie evidence against an accused. If there is probable cause, de Lima will be tried. If there is none, the judge can dismiss the case.
De Lima’s co-accused are former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, Bucayu’s alleged bagman
Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Rafael Ragos, de Lima’s former boyfriend Ronnie Dayan and former aide Joenel Sanchez.
The DOJ junked the complaints against former Justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd for lack of probable cause.
Prosecutors also dismissed the complaints against high-profile prison inmates Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad and Wu Tuan Yuan, also known as Peter Co, since “they will be utilized as Prosecution witnesses.”
The DOJ meanwhile endorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman “for its appropriate action” the criminal complaints for violation of RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; RA 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; Presidential Decree No. 46, known as the Act Punishing the Receiving and Giving of Gifts of Public Officials and Employees; and direct bribery and indirect bribery under the Revised Penal Code.”
In the same ruling, the DOJ said a further probe would be conducted on the alleged extortion activities of religious pastor Danilo Rico inside the New Bilibid Prison, the alleged kidnapping of Peter Co’s niece Sally by de Lima aide Jose Adrian Dera in March 2016, and the illegal drug activities and related offenses committed by self-confessed drug trader Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa.
To recall, Espinosa had admitted giving de Lima P8 million to support her senatorial bid in the May 2016 elections. The transactions allegedly happened in Baguio City and Pasay City.
Suffer the way Arroyo did
President Duterte’s chief legal counsel Salvado Panelo believes de Lima will suffer the same fate as former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was jailed on a plunder case in the previous administration. Arroyo was acquitted and freed last year.
In a chance interview, Panelo said de Lima should welcome the drug cases filed against her as it would give her the chance to prove that she is not guilty.
“[She] should be happy about that because…she will have the opportunity to defend herself. She should welcome [it],” Panelo told reporters.
“Kapag napatunayan na kasama siya sa drugs, e di makukulong siya. Matitikman na niya ang pinatikim niya kay Arroyo [If it’s proven she was involved in drugs, then she will go to jail. She will get a taste of what she did to Arroyo],” he said.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA, JOMAR CANLAS AND JAIME PILAPIL