De Lima hearing reset; witness no-show
The Muntinlupa City court handling one of the drug cases against Sen. Leila de Lima canceled a hearing on Wednesday after government prosecutors failed to present a witness.
Convict Engelberto Durano was scheduled to take the stand in Criminal Case No. 17-167 against De Lima, but the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) failed to present him for reasons not immediately clear, the senator’s lawyer, Rolly Francis Peoro, said in a statement.
Peoro said the defense team asked the court to seek an explanation from the BuCor regarding the nonappearance of Durano, a former policeman who was convicted of murder and kidnapping.
The hearing on Criminal Case 17-167 at Branch 256 of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court—one of three cases for conspiracy to commit drug trading filed against De Lima—was reset for Dec. 15. Durano earlier submitted an affidavit in court claiming he had deposited De Lima’s share from illegal drug transactions in New Bilibid Prison to three Banco de Oro (BDO) accounts. He mainly repeated the testimony he gave in 2016 during a House inquiry into the narcotics trade inside the national penitentiary.
De Lima was the justice secretary at the time Durano allegedly made the bank deposits. The opposition senator has strongly denounced the drug charges against her as politically motivated and a retaliation for her investigation of President Duterte’s war on drugs.
Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Leilia Llanes, in a Nov. 22, 2019, hearing on the two other drug cases (CC 17-165 and 17-166) against De Lima being heard at Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205, testified that the BDO accounts identified by the prosecution witnesses were not under De Lima’s name. In his affidavit, Durano claimed paying protection money to De Lima through her then aide and now coaccused, Ronnie Dayan, on orders of alleged drug kingpin Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz. Diaz was killed in a shootout with policemen who were serving a warrant of arrest on him at his home in Las Piñas City on June 17, 2016.
Durano also alleged that starting February 2014, Dayan received up to P27 million from Diaz through three BDO accounts. He narrated how he personally delivered P1.5 million in a gift-wrapped shoebox to De Lima in Bilibid sometime between November and December 2014.
The judge hearing Criminal Case 17-167 had been changed three times, with Romeo Buenaventura being the fourth to preside over the trial.
In all, 10 judges have handled the three De Lima cases since 2017, with the last eight inhibiting themselves, opting for early retirement or being transferred to another court.
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