TURNING POINT: A Quirk Episode: the De Lima Drug Case

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas (MindaNews, 27 Nov) – Some quirk episode on the De Lima sensational drug story suddenly threw spectators off their feet. Prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the illegal drug cases against Sen. Leila de Lima have admitted of late that the Banco de Oro (BDO) accounts identified by Bilibid witnesses as depositary accounts in the Bilibid drug trade do not belong to the detained Senator.

It should be noted that Senator de Lima was nabbed and detained on account of the allegation of the government that she is involved in the drug trade masterminded or controlled inside the Bilibid National Penitentiary that was under her jurisdiction then as Secretary of the Department of Justice of the previous administration. The written testimonies of government witnesses, Bilibid convicts Nonilo Arile, Engelberto Durano, and German Agojo alleging that the money is deposited in Banco de Oro in her name was given weight by the court to cause her arrest. She was denied bail for her temporary liberty.

However, during Nov. 22, 2019 hearing of Criminal Cases 17-165 and 17-166 at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa, Branch 205 presided by Judge Liezel Aquiatan, the Prosecution, through Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Leilia R. Llanes, told the court that the subpoena for the details of said BDO accounts being requested by De Lima’s lawyers is no longer necessary. Instead, Llanes said the prosecution will submit instead to the court a report on the drug money from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). No timetable was given because said report was still being prepared at the time of the hearing.

In short, the AMLC report or evidence against the senator in lieu of the alleged BDO account is still a “work in progress.” This means the contents are not yet even known to the government prosecutors themselves, yet their manipulative effort have already deprived their suspect of liberty for almost three years now. The lady senator, a staunch critic of Duterte’s bloody drug war, was arrested on February 24, 2017.

It is crystal clear that the senator was charged and detained on bogus charges. The cases against her ought to be dismissed and for her to be released at once if justice is to prevail. The government has no more reason in keeping her for a minute in its custody or has any more business running after her. The prospective AMLC report, whatever may be its value, could not serve as a substitute to the bogus failed BDO evidence. Anyway, is there such a thing as substitution of evidence in our justice system?

Meanwhile, the prosecutors of the cases and their patrons ought to answer for their crimes—for the resultant injustice, the indescribable damage they had caused to the lady senator.

But is that possible under the present dispensation?

Isn’t it chilling, if the DOJ can churn a bogus charge against a prominent senator, what would stop it or its agents from doing the same to ordinary citizens?

Of course, it is common knowledge that nameless suspects—drug users and street peddlers—are asked no questions or are dragged to no detention quarters: they are silenced and put to rest where they are found, an efficient way of saving government expenses for detainees’ board and lodging.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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