MANILA, Philippines—Just how valuable the testimony of murder convict Joel Capones to the drug case filed against Senator Leila de Lima?
The prosecution has presented Capones before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256. He testified that he saw drug lord Jaybee Sebastian hand over P1.4 million drug money to then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima at the Bahay na Bato inside the New Bilibid Prison sometime in March 2014.
“In his testimony, (Capones) delivered first the money to Jaybee Sebastian – the P1.4 million, and when the senator then Secretary of Justice arrived, Jaybee Sebastian handed the money to Sec. De Lima. That is part of the testimony,” Provincial Prosecution Ramoncito Bienvenido Ocampo Jr. told reporters.
“His testimony is very clear as far as we are concerned. We leave it to the court for its appreciation of our evidence as far as the gist of the testimony of Joel Capones,” he said.
During the hearing last week before Presiding Judge of the Muntinlupa City RTC, Branch 256, Capones testified that in December 2013, fellow NBP inmate Sebastian asked him to engage in illegal drug trading inside and out of the NBP to raise funds to support the senatorial bid of de Lima who was then the DOJ Secretary.
The witness admitted that he indeed transacted illegal drugs or shabu to heed Sebastian’s directive because he was convinced and impressed with the latter’s apparent strong influence with the previous administration, particularly with de Lima.
The senator’s camp, however, said Capones’ testimony was “selective.”
“Kanina sa aming cross examination, maraming bagay kami na napalabas mula kay Joel Capones at ang napansin naming importanteng bagay, medyo selective ang kanyang memory–may mga natatandaan syang petsa, mga sirkumstansya, mga personalidad pero marami ring hindi lalu na yung mga bagay na may tendency na sumira sa kredibilidad nya bilang testigo,” de Lima’s counsel, Atty. Boni Tacardon told reporters.
(During our cross-examination, we have managed to draw out inconsistencies in his testimony because we noticed that he has a selective memory. There are dates, circumstances and personalities that he can remember but there are those that he cannot, especially those that could ruin his credibility as a witness.)
Due to Capones’ admission that he engaged in illegal drug trading inside Bilibid from January to October 2014, de Lima wrote a letter to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra asking why Capones was not included as an accused in any of the drug cases filed against her.
“It is ironic that despite the Duterte Administration’s supposed dedication to the War on Drugs, convicted felons are still able to appear and testify under oath that they in fact committed illegal trading and yet remain free from prosecution,” de Lima said in her letter.
“The inaction of the DOJ in holding Mr. Capones to account for his self-confessed criminal acts, despite knowledge of his culpability, is a serious dereliction of duty and puts in question the seriousness of the Duterte administration’s resolve in fighting crime and illegal drugs,” she added.
Guevarra, meanwhile, said, “I have read Senator de Lima’s letter this morning and I’ll take the matter that she brought to my attention under advisement.”
De Lima is now facing two drug charges after the Muntinlupa Court granted her demurrer to evidence.
The senator also sought a reversal of the Muntinlupa court’s ruling that denied her other demurrer to evidence.