AMLC investigator says De Lima not involved in Bilibid drug trade
MANILA, Philippines — An investigator from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has told a court under oath that detained Sen. Leila de Lima was not involved in any suspicious transactions that would link her to the illegal drug trade.
AMLC financial investigator Artemio Baculi Jr. testified in De Lima’s trial on Friday as a witness for the prosecution during the hearing of the charges of conspiracy to commit drug trading brought against her by the Duterte administration at Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 205.
“We got [Baculi] to admit that [De Lima] was not among those he was investigating. In fact, he was not able to present any evidence that would show that there was conspiracy among the senator and the persons he was supposedly investigating for involvement in drug dealing,” said De Lima’s lawyer, Boni Tacardon.
In his testimony, Baculi also said there were no charges filed or forfeiture cases brought against De Lima related to money laundering in connection with the illegal drug trade in New Bilibid Prison.
De Lima faces three separate cases for alleged connivance with high-profile convicts in facilitating drug trading in the national penitentiary during her term as justice secretary.
In the alleged conspiracy case, Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors claimed De Lima demanded money and vehicles from Bilibid inmate Peter Co through her coaccused Jose Adrian “Jed” Dera for her 2016 senatorial campaign.
During the House of Representatives justice committee inquiry into the Bilibid drug trade in 2016, then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the DOJ had in its possession an AMLC report showing billions of pesos in drug money deposited in bank accounts allegedly belonging to De Lima.
But during his turn on the witness stand, Co denied his involvement in drug trading.
Prosecution witnesses from the AMLC and a private bank also testified that the bank accounts allegedly belonging to De Lima were not linked to her.
“Clearly, the prosecution cannot present any evidence implicating the senator. The conflicting testimonies of prosecution witnesses proved that she is innocent [of] the charges thrown at her,” Tacardon said.
Motions for bail
De Lima had brought two separate motions for bail in her nonbailable cases involving conspiracy to commit drug trading, citing the weak evidence of the prosecution.
Under court rules, bail is a matter of right before the judgment of conviction by the regional trial court involving an offense punishable by life imprisonment—such as De Lima’s drug cases—and “when evidence of guilt is not strong.”
As of Monday, Judge Liezel Aquiatan of Branch 205 of the Muntinlupa court had yet to rule on the two motions.
But even if the judge approved the bail, De Lima would not be immediately allowed to go free from her cell at the custodial center of the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, where she has been detained since Feb. 24, 2017.
De Lima is facing one more count of conspiracy to commit drug trading in Branch 256 of the Muntinlupa court, as well as a disobedience to summons case in a Quezon City court.
The DOJ brought the charges against De Lima in 2016 after she opened an investigation of alleged extrajudicial killings in President Duterte’s brutal war on drugs. She had been at odds with Mr. Duterte since 2009, when she, as head of the Commission on Human Rights, investigated alleged extrajudicial killings by so-called death squads in Davao City, governed by Mr. Duterte as mayor.
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