Witness vs De Lima disowns ‘testimony’
A former staff member of embattled Sen. Leila de Lima on Friday denied the existence of a dummy account in her name that allegedly contained P24 million in drug proceeds.
Edna “Bogs” Obuyes, former clerk at the Department of Justice (DOJ), said she was surprised that she was dragged into the controversy involving her former boss, who has been publicly accused by President Duterte of profiting from illegal drug sales at New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Mr. Duterte named De Lima and her former driver, identified as Ronnie Dayan, in a drug matrix. The senator has vehemently denied the accusation and challenged the President to show proof.
Obuyes and a certain Jonathan “Jong” Caranto—also a former De Lima staff member and a cousin of Dayan—were allegedly asked to deposit millions of pesos in a Banco De Oro account. Obuyes reportedly was able to amass P24 million in just two months in 2014.
But she denied the allegations.
“At that time, I was still working for CHR,” she said in her Facebook page, adding that it was impossible for her to use the name “Bogs” in bank transactions because it was only her nickname.
She said she learned about the bank account only when she was summoned to the office of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. “I was happy because I thought I would sign a new contract but I was surprised that I was presented a BDO bank receipt amounting to P24 million,” Obuyes said.
Obuyes is a contractual employee at the DOJ. Her contract expired in the middle of this year while Caranto had stopped showing for work at the DOJ.
Obuyes said she hoped attacks against her former boss would stop.
Move to discredit DOJ
“My statement denies the allegations, but why does it seem like I was against her? Please pray for me and for our Senator De Lima,” she said.
De Lima could not be reached for comment.
Aguirre, however, said people behind De Lima whom he did not name were behind the apparent black propaganda to discredit him and the justice department’s probe.
In a rare media briefing, Aguirre showed reporters a table indicating that the DOJ was in possession of 19 BDO deposit slips amounting to P88.504 million. Yet, he also admitted that those checks had been “discredited.”
Aguirre insisted the “leak of the bank documents was premature,” because the DOJ was still verifying it over the course of its case buildup on possible graft and drug charges against De Lima.
He also admitted that he had not examined the documents thoroughly, because of the “deluge” of information and the agency’s lack of appointed undersecretaries. He also expressed surprise that one of the slips was dated on a Good Friday.
He said he would never have released the document to the public and allowed De Lima’s camp a chance to discredit the investigation.
Obuyes’ statement was part of a “disinformation operation” so that “whatever evidence we come up with would blow in our faces,” Aguirre said.
Both Obuyes and Caranto denied having millions in their accounts, he said, stressing that their statements were also given to the National Bureau of Investigation. The fact that they were allowed to do so meant the investigation was not simply being carried out to tarnish De Lima’s reputation, Aguirre said.
Aguirre described De Lima justice secretary under the Aquino administration, as the “poster girl of the opposition” whose reputation they must protect.
“This was why I was so wary. I’ve been in practice of law for so long. Just because you feed me documents doesn’t mean I’d believe in them,” he stressed.
He said the deposit slips were obtained from a principal female source who in turn had three other sources.
He presented a table showing that four apparent DOJ employees, including Obuyes, making 13 deposit transactions amounting to P64,504,000.00 from February to October 2014.
Besides Obuyes, Caranto was also summoned by Aguirre on Tuesday. Caranto supposedly made six transactions amounting to P24 million beginning November 2015. The most recent was in April 29, 2016, 10 days before the May 9 elections.
But in his affidavit, Caranto said De Lima made him deposit between P20,000 and P40,000 to the account of Dayan in 2014. He said Dayan was a distant relative who helped him land a job at the CHR.
Caranto also denied being in the drug trade.
While acknowledging the deposit slips have been “discredited,” Aguirre maintained that efforts were under way to gather evidence to show “billions” in irregular transactions.
He said his office was supposed to seek the help of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, but the bank secrecy law had been a stumbling block in gathering documents.
Asked how he knew of the hefty amount then, he said: “Trust me.” TVJ