Hearing on De Lima case canceled again
MANILA, Philippines — For the second time in a week, a hearing in one of the three illegal drug cases against detained Sen. Leila de Lima was canceled after the prosecution failed to present its witness.
Sally Serrano, reportedly the niece of convicted drug lord Peter Co, was a no-show during the hearing at the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 205 on Friday. She was supposed to be the final witness for the prosecution in Criminal Case No. 17-166, according to Fhillip Sawali, the senator’s chief of staff.
The hearing was subsequently reset to Dec. 4 by the court despite objections from De Lima’s camp as the hearings on her cases had been delayed several times.
Co, whose real name is Wu Tuan Yuan, earlier testified in court that he paid a ransom of P5 million for the release of his niece and his wife. They were arrested by the police on March 25, 2016, after visiting him at New Bilibid Prison.
Co said he made the transaction with Jose Adrian Dera — a confidential police asset who was mistakenly identified as De Lima’s nephew—through fellow convict Hans Anton Tan since he could not speak Tagalog.
In his counteraffidavit in December 2016, Dera denied delivering any money to De Lima from Co.
Stuck in traffic
In another appearance in court in January and February this year, Co said he did not attempt to verify if the payment of ransom was ordered by De Lima nor was he able to personally talk to her. He also denied involvement in the illegal drug trade in Bilibid.
On Nov. 24, the hearing of De Lima’s other drug case at the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 was rescheduled to Dec. 15, after the prosecution failed to present Engelberto Durano, a former policeman currently serving time in Bilibid for murder and kidnapping.
In a handwritten dispatch from the custodial center of the Philippine National Police at Camp Crame, Quezon City, De Lima said she was puzzled by prosecution witnesses suddenly developing “cold feet.”
Her camp was told that the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) had cited heavy traffic for Durano’s absence although the national penitentiary was just 3 kilometers from the courthouse.
“It’s rather strange that [the] BuCor cannot squeeze a single witness under its custody through traffic, while my lawyers, the judge and all the court staff waited the whole afternoon,” she said.
De Lima recounted that during a hearing in 2019, Durano “directly gestured at me with a slashing motion across his throat, at the same time mouthing silently ‘papatayin ako.’”
Her lawyers asked the court to put on record “such a bizarre incident, suggestive of a coerced testimony.” “Need I say more? Just this — what’s happening?” she asked.
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