“Sufficient evidence” points to De Lima’s links in Bilibid drug trade — House Justice committee report

MANILA — The House of Representatives Justice committee gathered sufficient evidence to establish incumbent Senator Leila de Lima’s culpability in the illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her stint as justice secretary, according to its committee report released on Wednesday.

”Almost all witnesses testified on her (De Lima) involvement in the proliferation of drug syndicates and illegal drug trading inside NBP. Sufficient evidence point to her involvement and possible accountability in these illegal activities,” the House Justice committee said in its report.

The House panel, however, did not recommend in its report the filing of any administrative or criminal charges against De Lima.

The committee report on the inquiry into the Bilibid drug trade was based on the testimonies of 36 resource persons and witnesses, including Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, and documentary evidence presented during the 47 hours of public hearings.

Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who chairs the Justice committee, earlier said the matter of prosecution was an executive function that should be addressed by the courts or the Department of Justice (DOJ).

”Thus, the Committee leaves to the sound discretion of the DOJ and/or the Ombudsman the determination of whether appropriate charges should be filed against her, noting that several complaints have already been filed against her by certain groups,” the committee reported.

Apart from De Lima, the House committee also found proof that other officials were involved in the drug trafficking operations in the national penitentiary, including former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and former BuCor Director Franklin Bucayu.

In his testimony, Ragos admitted his participation in the illegal drug trading as he delivered a total of Php 10 million in drug money to De Lima’s house. However, Ragos’ testimony cannot be used against him since he has been granted immunity from suit by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Meanwhile, Bucayu’s failure to “adopt effective measures to curb this proliferation” may amount to either “malfeasance, misfeasance or gross inexcusable negligence”, the Justice committee noted.

Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s former driver and alleged lover, was also implicated in the drug trading after several witnesses testified that he was the alleged drug money bagman of the former Justice secretary.

The Justice committee noted that Dayan’s deliberate failure to attend the House probe despite the subpoena and order of contempt issued by the lower chamber amounts to flight, which is “an implied admission of guilt”.

Members of the minority bloc, led by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, dissented from the committee report for not including a recommendation of filing charges against De Lima and other culpable officials involved in the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary.

”The Minority reiterates its stand that the Justice Committee Report on House Resolution No. 105, on the proliferation of drug syndicates at the National Bilibid Prison, should include a recommendation for the filing of cases against the persons who violated the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, and committed acts of bribery and corruption,” Suarez said in a press conference on Wednesday.

”Faced with the information revealed, are we, as public officials, to just allow nature take its course without even voicing what we feel is the right thing to do? What we propose is a mere recommendation. A recommendation that the Executive can accept or reject,” he added.

The House Justice committee proposed the restoration of the “death penalty on drug cases pending the reform of the criminal justice system”.

The panel also recommended the grant of exceptions to the Anti-Wiretapping Law, Bank Secrecy Law, and Anti-Money Laundering Act with respect to inmates and drug-related cases. Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA-northboundasia.com