MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday lodged its first criminal case in court against embattled Senator Leila De Lima in connection with the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade.
The DOJ filed before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) an information for obstruction of justice against De Lima for instructing Ronnie Dayan, her former driver and alleged bagman, to go into hiding and snub the summons to a House inquiry probing the NBP narcotics ring.
The complaint was filed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and Justice Committee chairman Reynaldo Umali.
DOJ officer-in-charge Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan, Jr. said no bail was recommended and the trial court is not expected to issue a warrant against De Lima because the charge is a light offense.
Catalan also clarified that De Lima was not asked to submit her counter-affidavit and the proceedings before the DOJ was summary in nature.
"We did not conduct any preliminary investigation because under the Rules on Summary Procedure, if the imposable penalty is less than 6 months, we can file it directly [in court] and, in fact, there are cases in which the imposable penalty is four years, 2 months, and one day that the investigating prosecutor need not conduct any preliminary investigation," Catalan said.
"We have a basis under Section 8 of Rule 112 on the Rules on Summary."
In its five-page resolution, dated December 15, 2016 and signed by Assistant State Prosecutor Vilma Lopez-Sarmiento, the DOJ said De Lima's advice for Dayan to into hiding, passed through a text message to his daughter, constitutes "an act amounting to restraining another to attend as a witness in the National Assembly
(now Congress of the Philippines) or its committee and inducing disobedience to a summon."
"Based on the foregoing, we find probable cause to charge the respondent," the resolution read.
The resolution was approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo and Catalan.
Other criminal cases for drug trafficking against De Lima, Dayan, and several others remain pending with the DOJ, still in connection with the NBP illegal drug trade.
De Lima is being accused of directing high-profile inmates at the state prison to sell large volumes of methamphetamine hydrochloride ("shabu") to fund her senatorial campaign. She has repeatedly denied the allegation.
A hearing is set on these cases on Wednesday afternoon.