DOJ panel denies De Lima's plea in drug case

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 06 2017 05:20 PM

Senator Leila De Lima

MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has terminated its proceedings on a drug case filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in relation to Senator Leila De Lima's alleged receipt of P8-million from self-confessed drug trader Kerwin Espinosa.

Respondents include De Lima, her former driver-bodyguard and former lover Ronnie Dayan, and Espinosa.

The complaint is for violation of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165, also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, specifically for the "sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs," and conspiracy to commit the same.

Espinosa arrived in Friday's preliminary investigation hearing amid heavy security and personally subscribed to his extrajudicial confession. 

De Lima and Dayan were a no-show, but De Lima was represented by counsel Bonifacio Tacardon.

The DOJ panel handling the case, led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor (SASP) Peter Ong, decided to submit the case for resolution and deny the plea of Kerwin and De Lima's camps for a 15-day extension to file their respective counter-affidavits.

At first, the panel gave both respondents up to Friday, January 13, to submit their counter-affidavits but decided to deny the motions for extension after Tacardon said he could not commit to the same and has yet to consult De Lima.

De Lima's omnibus motion for the transfer of the case to the Office of the Ombudsman on questions of jurisdiction was also denied.

The panel also asked clarificatory questions on Espinosa, particularly on the date he met De Lima in Baguio, had his photo taken with her, and delivered P2-million to her through Dayan. Espinosa maintained the incident took place sometime between November 19 to 22, 2015.

Espinosa claims that he handed monies to Dayan for De Lima in three other separate occasions.

Asked how he felt upon learning that he was named as one of the respondents in the case despite his admission to the DOJ's Witness Protection Program (WPP) following his testimony against De Lima before a congressional inquiry and his willingness to testify against her in court, Espinosa said he was "surprised."

"Na-surprise po ako pero tanggap ko naman po," he told journalists in an interview.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the DOJ will move for Espinosa's discharge as state witness should the case reach the courts.

Espinosa is detained at the NBI headquarters in Manila.

The case against De Lima, Dayan, and Espinosa is the fifth drug complaint against De Lima. 

She was earlier charged in four other complaints in relation to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) drug trade. That consolidated case is also submitted for resolution and will be decided anytime soon.