Witness: NBP raid conducted by DOJ under De Lima very successful
Retired Philippine National Police (PNP) Director Benjamin Magalong may have been the prosecution’s first witness in Sen. Leila de Lima’s trial for conspiracy to trade illegal drugs, but according to the lawyer of the detained senator, his testimony on Tuesday actually bolstered De Lima’s claims of innocence.
Magalong took the witness stand in the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 206 to talk about “Oplan Cronus,” the raid on the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) that he said had been his brainchild as head of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) at that time.
Favorable to De Lima
Boni Tacardon, De Lima’s lawyer, seized on Magalong’s assertion during his testimony that the raid, which had been carried out by De Lima when she was still justice secretary, was “very successful” despite his gripes about having been excluded from its implementation.
“What’s important in his testimony is that he reiterated the fact that the raid, conducted by the Department of Justice in December 2014, was very successful in a sense that the targets and objectives of ‘Oplan Cronus’ were actually achieved,” Tacardon said.
A total of 19 high-profile NBP inmates supposedly responsible for the proliferation of illegal drugs in the national penitentiary were transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation as a result of the raid.
Tacardon said that although Magalong was “hurt” by the exclusion of the PNP-CIDG from the raid, despite the fact that he planned the operation, the police official had acknowledged that “to his recollection, no other secretary of justice ever conducted a successful raid of this magnitude on the NBP.”
“It was like he was actually a witness for De Lima because he said what she had done against the illegal drug trade was very successful,” he added.
Magalong finally took the witness stand after failing to show up during the scheduled hearing on Sept. 4. His nonappearance angered Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo who berated prosecutors for wasting the court’s time after they tried to make last-minute changes in their list of witnesses.
Senior Supt. Jerry Valeroso, who was also supposed to take the stand for the prosecution yesterday, was unable to attend after he fell ill.
Domingo has yet to resolve the motion to disqualify witnesses filed by De Lima who claimed that because 13 of the prosecution’s witnesses were convicted felons who committed crimes of “moral turpitude,” they should be barred from joining the Witness Protection Program.
NBP inmate next witness
The judge has also yet to act on the request of the prosecution to hold a hearing at the NBP, where its witness Engelberto Durano, a former policeman convicted for murder and kidnapping, is detained.
In the case at the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206, De Lima is accused, along with several others, of planning to trade drugs inside the NBP to raise funds for her Senate run in 2016.
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