MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has dropped the bribery case filed against former Sen. Leila de Lima and her former aide, Ronnie Dayan, as it found no probable cause for the accusation.
The resolution ordering the dismissal of the case was dated July 22 but was released only on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
The resolution said there were glaring inconsistencies in the testimonies provided by the complainant, the Special Investigation Team of the Office of the Ombudsman.
De Lima was supposed to have received bribe money – collected by Dayan — from convicted drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa.
The inconsistencies, the resolution said, “would prevent a reasonable mind from concluding that the respondents are probably guilty of the offenses charged against them.”
The resolution noted that Espinosa testified that it was Dayan who got the money from him. However, government witness Marcelo Adorco, a prison inmate, said it was the De Lima who directly received the money.
“According to Kerwin, he gave a total of P8 million [to] Dayan in behalf of de Lima on four different occasions. It is noteworthy that in all instances de Lima was never there and it was Dayan who received the money from Kerwin,” the ruling portion of the resolution, which was approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires, reads.
“However, in Adorco’s version of events Kerwin handed the money directly to de Lima when they had lunch at a Pasay restaurant,” it added.
In this particular case, De Lima was said to have bribed Espinosa in exchange for security. De Lima back then was the Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary, under the administration of then-President Benigno Aquino III.
Espinosa also stated that the P8 million supposed bribe was given in four installments. But Adorco said the whole sum was given during the lunch meeting.
The resolution also sided with De Lima, who claimed that a supposed meeting in Baguio City with Espinosa was merely a chance encounter during the national campaign for the senatorial elections.
“In the same vein, the circumstances surrounding Kerwin’s encounter with the respondents in Baguio is likewise littered with inconsistencies making it difficult to conclude that Kerwin and the respondents had planned to meet each other there,” the ruling stated.
“Thus, it is more likely that what happened in Baguio between Kerwin and de Lima was a chance encounter since the latter was there to boost her senatorial candidacy. This is especially true since according to Ram-Jhon, Kerwin had instructed him to book a trip to Baguio to get away from the chaos of the preparation for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Metro Manila,” it added.
Other questions raised were why Espinosa did not directly meet with De Lima and how it could be proven that Dayan was indeed her emissary.
“Preliminary investigation also seeks to secure the innocent against hasty, malicious, and oppressive prosecution. Further, it aims to protect the innocent from an open and public accusation of a crime, from the trouble, expense, and anxiety of a public trial,” the resolution added.
“After all, an acquittal from a manifestly baseless accusation can hardly be considered a situation where justice has triumphed,” it added.
Several groups and some members of the House of Representatives have been calling for the Department of Justice to drop the charges against de Lima.
They pointed out that after several witnesses — including Espinosa — had retracted their statements against the former senator, saying that they were only forced to testify against her.
One of the three drug cases against de Lima before was dropped after the presiding judge accepted the former senator’s demurrer to evidence.
De Lima has been detained since Feburary 2017 for allegedly allowing the illegal drugs trade to operate inside the New Bilibid Prison — an attached agency of the DOJ.
Then-President Rodrigo Duterte and some of his Cabinet officials said that de Lima should be jailed for her alleged participation.
But De Lima said it was a political vendetta against her because she led investigations of Duterte’s drug war in the Senate and alleged human rights violations when Duterte was still Davao City mayor.