DOJ creates panel to handle drug raps vs De Lima, 7 others

MANILA — Department of Justice (DOJ) Vitaliano Aguirre II on Friday said a five-man panel of prosecutors team to handle the drug trafficking complaints filed against former DOJ Secretary and now Senator Leila De Lima will be created.

Aguirre said the five man panel shall conduct the preliminary investigation and then the Justice department will forward its findings to the Office of the Ombudsman, the agency mandated to investigate and prosecute erring government officials and employees before the Sandiganbayan.

“The DOJ has concurrent jurisdiction with the Ombudsman to hear preliminary investigation cases filed against government officials that are cognizable by the Sandiganbayan,” he explained.

Aguirre also assured that prosecutors would be fair in resolving the criminal charges against his predecessor in the department and seven others.

Aguirre also said there will be a consolidation of the complaint filed separately by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala as to De Lima’s alleged conspiracy to commit drug trade.

He said that since both cases involve similar issues, these cases shall be consolidated.

Last Tuesday, the VACC lodged the complaint against the lady senator for violating Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act) by supposedly conspiring with several other officials in the previous administration and high-profile NBP inmates in the drug trade during her stint as DOJ secretary.

The VACC complaint named as respondents De Lima, former DOJ undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, former BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu, De Lima’s former aides Ronnie Dayan, Joenel Sanchez and Jose Adrian Dera, Bucayu’s alleged bagman Wilfredo Ely and high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian.

Former NBI deputy director for intelligence services Reynaldo Esmeralda and deputy director for special investigation services Ruel Lasala specifically charged De Lima and former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge and NBI Deputy Director Rafael Ragos for violation of Section 5, in relation to Section 26 (b) of Republic Act 9165, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The complaint was filed in connection with allegations that De Lima, during her term as DOJ secretary, conspired with Ragos to benefit from the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the NBP in Muntinlupa City.

The said provisions prohibit the “sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical.”

Under the said law, the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine ranging from PHP500,000 to PHP10 million shall be imposed to any person who will be found guilty of the offense. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/

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