Anticrime group sues De Lima
After snubbing a congressional probe controlled by her rival’s backers, “The Fiscalizer” must now defend herself in a formal venue.
An anticrime group on Tuesday sued Sen. Leila de Lima and seven others, including her former security aide and a convicted kidnapper who had testified against her, in the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with the narcotics trade at New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed the criminal complaint a day after the House of Representatives’ justice committee concluded its investigation of the proliferation of illegal drugs in the national penitentiary when De Lima was the justice secretary.
De Lima, President Duterte’s staunchest critic, had shunned the inquiry, calling it a “kangaroo court” manned by the President’s political allies.
The VACC founding chair and president, Dante Jimenez, claimed De Lima received millions of pesos in payoffs from drug lords serving time at NBP that she used to bankroll her Senate bid in the May 9 elections.
The junior senator and avowed “fiscalizer” of the Duterte administration has repeatedly denied all allegations linking her to drug syndicates, saying they are part of a smear campaign aimed at stopping her criticisms against Mr. Duterte.
“We are really surprised and saddened that a former secretary of justice is being charged regarding the illegal drug trade in NBP,” Jimenez told reporters after filing the 64-page complaint.
“It’s very revolting,” he said. “The commonality of all testimonies (in the House inquiry) was about money… because then Secretary De Lima was planning to run as senator.”
Also named respondents in the case for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 were NBP inmate Jaybee Sebastian and Presidential Security Group personnel Joenel Sanchez.
On Monday, Sebastian told the House inquiry that De Lima was his “protector” in running his illegal drug operations and that he had raised at least P10 million for her campaign.
Sanchez, who was accused by Sebastian as De Lima’s bagman, had testified that De Lima had a romantic relationship with her former driver-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, who collected payola from Chinese drug lords.
Also charged were Dayan, former Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Franklin Bucayu, Jose Adrian Dera and Wilfredo Ely, Bucayu’s supposed “collector.”
Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said Dera was taken into custody by the National Bureau of Investigation after he was “invited” to Station 11 of the Manila Police District in Tondo on Monday night.
Citing the testimonies of NBP high-profile inmate Herbert Colanggo and former BuCor officer in charge Rafael Ragos, Jimenez said the existence of illegal drugs inside the national penitentiary was “borne out of a malevolent idea that with vast power, respondents could control the syndicates operating inside NBP without any competition or opposition.”
He said De Lima used her “power and authority … to abet and even promote the proliferation of massive drug trade inside NBP.”
Test case vs Duterte
In planning her defense, De Lima announced she would implead Mr. Duterte himself in suits she planned to file in the Supreme Court, citing his alleged “blatant abuse of power” in purportedly mobilizing his officials to accuse her of involvement in the drug trade, which exploded after she made her stand against the administration’s bloody war on drugs.
The case against Mr. Duterte would be part of petitions for the writs of amparo (protection) and habeas data she will file in the high court as a counterstrike to the VACC case against her.
A petition for the writ of amparo is a redress that an individual may seek when his or her “right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.”
A habeas data plea is a remedy an individual may seek from the court when his or her “right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party,” according to rules of the high court.
“In those cases, I will implead the President himself,” De Lima said. “Here, with the breadth and gravity of what they’ve been doing to me, this is the chance to test the doctrine of presidential immunity from suit.”
The suits appear aimed at stemming what De Lima has several times decried as violations of her privacy, including explicit testimonies on her alleged romantic relations and references to a purported “sex tape” where she purportedly appears with a former lover. She has denied such claims many times.
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