MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution has “strongly” opposed detained Senator Leila de Lima’s motion to dismiss the drug charges against her, citing clear evidence that the former justice secretary acted to protect known drug lords inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
In their comment filed before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 205 on Jan. 18, government prosecutors said they are “standing firm that there is no basis in fact and in law to grant the Demurrer to Evidence and strongly opposes the prayer of dismissal” of the opposition senator’s motion.
On Jan. 7, de Lima, through her legal counsels, asked the court that the instant Demurrer to Evidence be granted and that the criminal case be dismissed “for failure” of the prosecution to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
“She could not be expected to personally transact drugs or to deliver drugs or possess drugs,” the prosecutors said of the defense’s claim that there is no direct evidence to incriminate de Lima.
On Feb. 17, 2019, an information for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 was filed against ee Lima but prosecutors noted that as early as April 2011, testimonies by prosecution witnesses including inmate Nonilo Arile, a former Manila detective before he was jailed, showed that de Lima was favoring certain inmates, particularly high profile drug convict Jayvee Sebastian.
Arile also claimed he personally saw de Lima at the maximum security compound in April 2011 when an inmate, Egay Alvarez was caught smoking shabu in a video. The video subsequently went viral on social media, prompting an angry de Lima to take drastic action.
Arile, however, said Sebastian prevailed over de Lima not to proceed with the demolition of the kubols or huts for privileged inmates, allowing the drug trade to continue inside the NBP.
The prosecution also cited the importance of testimony by former police general Benjamin Magalong, then head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), who was stonewalled in efforts in conducting prompt raids in Bilibid to go after known drug lords operating behind bars.
This, even as Magalong’s information at that time had not centered on de Lima as a beneficiary of the drug trade.
Magalong had initiated a case build up in response to reported and discovered illicit drug activities of some CIDG, National Capital Region Police Office, Police Regional Office-Region 3 personnel and other law enforcement officers who are engaged in a modus operandi called “Agaw Bato” and have direct links to high profile inmates at the NBP.
He launched Copan Cronus to neutralize the network established by the NBP inmates and possibly determine the participation of other government officials including Bureau of Correction (BuCor) personnel and brought to his superiors’ attention the urgent need to raid NBP in order to isolate high profile inmates.
Former BuCor chief Jesus Bucayu dissuaded Magalong from continuing the raid as his personal and family security was in danger.
“A raid was subsequently conducted without the CIDG who was then in possession of information of great intelligence value,” the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors also said the de Lima ordered raid was orchestrated.
“Contrary to the argument of accused de Lima, Oplan Galugad proved to be not successful but selective only considering that not all high profile inmates who are targets of Oplan Cronus were actually isolated but continued to manage drug trading,” the prosecutors said, adding that the success of Oplan Galugad was “dubious.”
The prosecutors said based on their intelligence report contained in the case operational plan, “there were more or less thirty inmates confirmed to be involved in drug trading but the raid initiated by de Lima only 19 inmates were taken and brought in isolation.”
“But what is disheartening is the fact that de Lima, despite information picturing and pointing her close associate, Jaybee Sebastian to be a top drug trader,” they added.
They also said the absence of evidence showing de Lima’s direct link “does not negate the fact that she allowed, benefitted, participated, and tolerated drug trading during her watch as a secretary of justice.”
They said clear evidence that Sebastian enjoyed de Lima’s favor was clear on Valentine’s Day 2014 when Arile, through an inmate friend Steve Mesinas, met Ruben Acerbo, a drug lord based in Roxas City, and facilitated a transaction network with Jess Arsenal, who acted as the chief escort of Sebastian.
Sebastian and Arile testified that they sourced the drugs from Chinese drug lords, including Peter Co.