DOJ denies ‘politicking’ in De Lima raps
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday denied it was engaged in “politicking” and stressed it dropped one case against Sen. Leila de Lima that used the testimony of confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, even as it filed three separate drug-related chagres against her in a regular court.
A fifth case, which accused De Lima of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, was referred to the Office of the Ombudsman, which had rightful jurisdiction over the case, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said.
Under the resolution, drug charges against former Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, an official who worked under De Lima, were also dismissed for lack of evidence.
Charges against five high-profile convicts who had testified against De Lima — Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Acenas Durano, Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad and Wu Tuan Yuan alias Peter Co — were dropped because they would be used as prosecution witnesses, the resolution read.
“This is not just about politicking. If this was just about politics, then why didn’t we include Baraan, who was an undersecretary (under De Lima). But the evidence against him was insufficient, so the five-man panel dismissed the case,” Aguirre told a news conference.
“That is why this is not a product of politicking. This is a product of the drug trade,” he said.
Aguirre further justified the filing of the cases in a Regional Trial Court (RTC) instead of the Sandiganbayan because De Lima is a public official.
He said charges such as the “trade and sale of drugs … belong to the jurisdiction of the RTC.”
“It is but right and proper that it be filed before the RTC,” he said.
He added that the Ombudsman did not take the cases from them.
“As a matter of fact, even during the preliminary investigation, because the Ombudsman has primary jurisdiction, the Ombudsman could have taken over the conduct of the preliminary investigation and demand these cases be forwarded to them,” Aguirre said.
“But the Ombudsman did not do it and let the DOJ panel of prosecutors investigate preliminarily until it’s terminated until filed today at RTC,” he said.
He added that the drug-related charges “are not cognizable by the Sandiganbayan.”
“And this is the reason why (these are) filed before RTCs,” he said.