MANILA — Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II on Monday refuted Sen. Leila De Lima’s remarks stating that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is speeding up the issuance of a warrant of arrest against her in relation to her alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
”The claim of Senator De Lima is totally erroneous. As a lawyer and as a former Secretary of Justice, she should know that the DOJ does not issue warrants of arrest. Consequently, it is totally irresponsible of her to announce that the DOJ is expediting the issuance of such warrants. That is a blatant lie and a total misinformation. Senator De Lima’s motivation for saying such is beyond us,” Aguirre said in response on the accusations of De Lima.
De Lima made the statement after Aguirre said that the neophyte senator could be arrested “anytime soon.”
“Well, I really don’t know when an arrest warrant will be issued. But Sec. Aguirre has confirmed that the resolution (for the warrant of arrest) would be released very, very soon. And then he had statements like ‘she should better brace herself for an arrest,’” De Lima said.
De Lima, an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, said the President himself admitted that he was determined to let her suffer the same fate as former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was jailed for plunder charges.
Aguirre said that De Lima’s statement implies that the DOJ has control or influence in courts.
”It is a totally irresponsible statement. It implies that we can control or influence our courts. We do not do that, at least in my time as Secretary of Justice. It might be what was done during her time at the DOJ but definitely it will not be done during my time,” he added.
De Lima also said that her legal team is readying charges of subornation of perjury and tampering of witnesses against Aguirre, which she added will be filed ‘in a few days’ before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Aguirre downplayed the De Lima’s plan to file charges against him for alleged tampering of witnesses against her as part of the supposed plan of President Duterte to put her in jail.
Aguirre said he is confident the charges will not prosper since de Lima has no evidence to prove it.
”I am innocent of the said charges. I am sure she has no evidence against me,” Aguirre said when sought for comment.
At the same time, Aguirre said there is no truth to her claim that the investigation on her supposed links to the illegal drugs trade at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City as well as the presentation of witnesses against the lawmaker before the House’ inquiry on the narcotics trade is part of the administration’s plan to lock her up in jail.
The DOJ chief said it would be better for De Lima to just face the charges against her.
Earlier, Aguirre admitted that they are taking time to come up with a tight case in relation to the drug trafficking complaints filed De Lima.
”Talagang mahirap ‘yung kaso because there are so many witnesses, maraming accusations , maraming sections na violated , kaya talagang hinihimay nila,” Aguirre told reporters in a press conference.
“I think tama naman yung ginawa nila na talagang pagbutihin nila… Sapagkat di tulad ng accusations sa akin na binibilisan ko raw , sa kabagalan nga e galit na ang tao sa akin,” he added.
The panel of prosecutors headed by Senior Asst. State Prosecutor Peter Ong has already submitted the case for resolution without the answer from De Lima, who was repeatedly summoned to attend the hearing and submit her counter-affidavit.
The consolidated complaints against De Lima were filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), crime watchdog group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala and high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian in connection to her alleged involvement in illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she was still Justice Secretary.
The complaints filed against her include indirect bribery, violation of the Anti-Graft Law and violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act.
Aguirre said the resolution on the complaints against the senator would come this week. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA-northboundasia.com