Arroyo denies colluding with Duterte to bring De Lima down
The counsel of former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday denied the allegations of Senator Leila de Lima that she was in cahoots with other lawmakers and President Rodrigo Duterte to bring down De Lima over allegations of drug money.
In a statement, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio said De Lima’s woes were not brought about by political vendetta from her rivals but by her own deeds of raising campaign funds from the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison.
Topacio reacted to De Lima’s statement that Arroyo and two of the senators who were detained over the pork barrel scam were conspiring with President Duterte to smear her reputation. De Lima had crossed swords with Duterte since she, as then human rights chair, initiated an investigation in 2009 into the Davao Death Squad when Duterte was Davao City mayor.
De Lima led the investigation into the pork barrel scam that led to the detention and trial for plunder of former senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile. Revilla and Estrada were denied bail, but Enrile was granted temporary freedom from hospital detention by the Supreme Court.
“She blames a supposed cabal composed of President Rodrigo Duterte, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; former Senators Revilla, Estrada and Enrile, certain ‘PDAF Congressmen’ and ‘a powerful religious group’ for her woes. The utter absurdity of her allegations is at once evident,” Topacio said.
In 2011, De Lima, when she was justice secretary under the Aquino administration, barred Arroyo from seeking medical treatment abroad as the former President faced investigation for election fraud and plunder.
Topacio said Arroyo was too busy serving her constituents in Pampanga to concoct political vendetta. Arroyo was recently released from four years of hospital detention after the Supreme Court dismissed for weak evidence her plunder case over the alleged misuse of charity funds.
“While I cannot pretend to speak for the others pointed to by her, I must emphasize that Mrs. Arroyo is busy making up for lost time by serving her constituents and spending quality time with her family. She has better things to do than bother with a creature like De Lima, whose shenanigans will soon be her own undoing, even without any help from Mrs. Arroyo,” Topacio said.
Topacio said De Lima was muddling the issue by finger-pointing, as she faces indictment by the Department of Justice upon recommendation of lawmakers to have her charged with graft and violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act over allegations she earned millions of drug kickbacks from the Bilibid.
The House of Representatives led an investigation in aid of legislation over her alleged role, but fell short in recommending charges. The minority bloc in Congress in its version of the report wanted De Lima charged for drug trafficking.
READ: House minority bloc recommends graft, drug raps vs De Lima | House justice body: Bilibid drugs flourished under De Lima’s watch
“De Lima is trying to muddle the issue by finger-pointing when she should be explaining to the people why scores of witnesses – not only Bilibid inmates, but former subordinates, aides and colleagues in the Department of Justice – have testified clearly and emphatically under oath, that she has masterminded the transformation of the National Bilibid Prison into the hub of the nationwide drug trade, making the NBP into her personal cash cow whereby she was able to raise hundreds of millions to use for her election bid and to provide for the fancies of her lovers,” Topacio said.
De Lima’s former driver Ronnie Dayan, who was also her alleged lover, was tagged by inmates as her alleged bagman. He remains at large.
Topacio said De Lima’s woes were not brought up by political vengeance but by her own doing when she allowed drugs to proliferate at the Bilibid prison.
“De Lima must realize that the cases against her are not ‘payback’ from persons with axes to grind or even ‘political persecution’ but are a direct result of her official misconduct, her overweening desire for wealth, her naked political ambition, and her uncontrollable libidinous urges. She should snap out of her state of denial and face the fact that the wheels of justice may grind slowly, but it grinds exceedingly well,” Topacio said.
READ: Cons pin down De Lima
De Lima’s rift with Arroyo goes back to the previous Aquino administration when she as justice secretary was at the helm of the government’s anti-corruption crusade.
In Nov. 2011, Arroyo was ordered arrested when a joint Department of Justice and Commission on Elections panel filed electoral fraud charges against Arroyo before the Pasay city Regional Trial Court. The arrest warrant was issued five hours after the charges were filed. She was granted bail after eight months in hospital detention.
She was again brought back to detention after Ombudsman prosecutors in 2012 filed a plunder charge against her for the alleged raid of P366 million in state lottery funds at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
The Sandiganbayan ordered Arroyo detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center for four years pending her trial until the Supreme Court junked her plunder case in July 2016 for insufficiency of evidence.
READ: SC junks remaining Arroyo plunder case, sets her free | Arroyo walks free after 4 yrs of hospital detention
The Sandiganbayan this year also dismissed the graft and breach of conduct cases against Arroyo after it approved her demurrer to evidence in connection with the anomalous National Broadband Network-ZTE deal.
After returning to Congress to serve her last term as congresswoman, Arroyo was elected deputy speaker. CDG/rga
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