• VACC taps House probe witnesses vs de Lima

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    THE Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Thursday filed a supplemental complaint against former Justice secretary Leila de Lima before the Department of Justice (DOJ), tapping witnessess’ testimonies in the recent House inquiry into the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

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    Anti-crime crusader Dante Jimenez, VACC founding chairman, said the supplemental complaint included the findings of the House of Representatives’ justice committee that conducted the inquiry, and the testimonies of 18 witnesses.

    “All of [the witnesses]stated under oath that proceeds of the drug sale were delivered to Secretary Leila M. de Lima, in person or via her representative/s, for the purpose of helping her in her election campaign,” the supplemental complaint-affidavit said.

    De Lima, who is now a senator, on Thursday accused the VACC of fronting for “bigger” personalities harboring a personal vendetta against her.

    Apart from President Rodrigo Duterte whom de Lima accuses of being behind efforts to bring her down, the former Justice secretary did not name names.

    But de Lima noted she had been blamed for stopping former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from leaving the country in 2011.

    “They would again point to me as involved in the drug trade, an alleged coddler, protector, recipient of drug money. These are all lies so there is no added weight. These are just further fabrication of evidence. Bring them on,” she said.

    At the Kapihan sa Senado news forum, de Lima also said she would soon file cases against President Duterte, without going into details.

    Convicts’ testimonies

    Included in the VACC’s supplemental filing were sworn statements of former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) deputy director and former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer in charge Rafael Ragos, NBI agent Jovencio Ablen, Presidential Security Group members Joenel Sanchez and Romel Falcasantos, Supt. Jerry Valeroso, and Reynant Diaz.

    Also included were the testimonies of 12 Bilibid inmates — Rodolfo Magleo, Herbert Colanggo, Noel Martinez, Jaime Patcho, Hans Anton Tan, Froilan “Poypoy” Trestiza, Jojo Baligad, Engelberto Durano, Nonilo Arile, Joel Capones, Wu Tuan Yuan alias Peter Co, and Vicente Sy.

    Sanchez is also a respondent in the complaint, along with former Justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd, former BuCor director Jesus Bucayu, de Lima’s former security aide Ronnie Palisoc Dayan, Jose Adrian Dera alias Jad de Vera, and high-profile NBP inmate Jaybee Sebastian.

    De Lima and her co-respondents face drug trafficking charges penalized under Republic Act (RA) 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

    The DOJ had described the NBP as the nerve center of the country’s illegal drug operations, supposedly accounting for 75 percent of drug transactions prior to the assumption of President Duterte into office.

    The VACC filed the charges against de Lima before the DOJ on October 11.

    Minority report

    In a news forum in Quezon City, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez bared that his bloc will recommend the filing of cases of graft, bribery, breach of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Practices for Public Officials, and violations Sections 8 and 27 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act against de Lima.

    Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque said the Justice committee had found proof against the senator.

    “The Secretary of Justice was the main reason there was a drug trade in Muntinlupa, to raise funds for her election campaign,” he said in the same forum.

    The minority bloc had criticized the majority for not recommending charges versus de Lima despite the evidence yielded by the inquiry.

    The House justice committee chairman, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, had said it was not his panel’s job to recommend criminal charges against the senator, arguing that “prosecution is an executive function, not a congressional function.”

    The minority bloc will present a dissenting opinion to the justice panel’s report to the House plenary after the All Saints’ Day break, Roque said. The dissenting opinion will also be sent to the DOJ, he said.

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