De Lima challenges sufficiency of evidence in 2nd drugs case

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 08 2021 09:43 PM

MANILA — A day after moving for the dismissal of her first drugs case, detained Senator Leila De Lima filed another demurrer to evidence in the second of 3 drugs cases she is facing, saying the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that she conspired to commit illegal drug trading at the New Bilibid Prison.

De Lima’s lawyers filed the demurrer before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 Friday in the case involving her former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan as co-accused.

Prosecutors accused De Lima of allegedly receiving 2 payments of P5 million each through Dayan in November and December 2012, supposedly to raise funds for her then-senatorial bid.

But the detained senator said the witnesses the prosecution presented did not have personal knowledge that the money supposedly delivered to Dayan was intended for or received by De Lima, or that it came from the supposed illegal drug operations at NBP.

The prosecution, the defense added, could not even show or say what kind of drugs were involved. They could not also present evidence of a supposed conspiracy.

“Would the Honorable Court be able to justly come to the conclusion that Accused Leila M. De Lima could be found guilty beyond any reasonable doubt to have conspired to engage in illegal drug trading based solely on the evidence of witnesses, absolutely none of whom testified to having any personal knowledge of either the source of the alleged moneys, or the fact of delivery to Accused De Lima?” the document read.

“To say nothing of documentary evidence that the Prosecution admitted not to have anything to do with her bank records or alleged participation in the drug trade?,” it added, referring to testimonies from the representatives of the Anti-Money Laundering Council and a bank that supposedly established the senator had nothing to do with the bank accounts examined.

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DE LIMA: PROSECUTION’S STRONGEST WITNESS NOT CREDIBLE

The strongest prosecution witness, according to the defense, was former Bureau of Corrections OIC Rafael Ragos, himself a co-accused in the case until he was dropped when the information was amended months after De Lima was arrested in February 2017.

Ragos claimed he received money from convict Hans Tan and upon Tan’s instructions, delivered these on 2 occasions to De Lima’s house in Parañaque together with his subordinate, NBI intelligence Agent Jovencio Ablen, supposedly as her companion in the illegal drug trade.

But De Lima’s lawyers pointed out that Ragos executed 3 affidavits in 2016 and attended 2 hearings before the House of Representatives where he denied participating in the illegal drug trade and did not mention Tan or the alleged purpose or source of the deliveries intended allegedly for the senator.

It was only when Ragos was dropped as accused and reinstated to his post at the National Bureau of Investigation that he identified Tan as the cryptic caller who allegedly instructed him to deliver money to De Lima’s house, but he still denied participating in the illegal drug trade, the defense said.

During cross-examination, Ragos said the money was intended as a campaign contribution but he did not claim it was drug money.

“Ragos’s credibility is made even weaker by the Prosecution’s own evidence, especially, the testimonies of Jun Ablen, General Benjamin Magalong, Hans Anton Tan and Peter Co, all of which tended to prove that it is he, Mr. ‘I Am Always Curious About Money,’ who is: (a) the one with the derogatory record; and (b) to whom moneys were delivered at times that suspiciously coincided with his official actions as BuCor OIC, whether in placing and releasing inmates from bartolina, transferring them from one penitentiary to another, granting and withholding privileges, and even in relation to handling the inmates’ food supply,” according to De Lima’s demurrer.

De Lima’s defense team said the money supposedly involved in this case in fact went to Ragos, citing the testimony of Ablen, Ragos’ former deputy, who testified that Ragos designated him to receive money from the NBP caterer, money in exchange for special requests from inmates, money from visitors and weekly “tara” from inmates, which he personally counted and handed over.

Ragos himself, according to the defense, confirmed Ablen’s account.

Drug convict Peter Co also testified that the deliveries of money for Ragos and BuCor officials were intended as “grease money” in exchange for their release from bartolina (solitary confinement) and for their return to their lavish kubols.

The prosecution’s own witness, former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, also testified that they received information that Ragos allegedly received payolas from high profile drug personalities.

In contrast, Magalong and some NBI officials cleared De Lima of any involvement in any investigation on the illegal drug trade.

De Lima’s defense team also sought to cast doubt on testimonies of other witnesses as hearsay:

  • Convict Hans Anton Tan who supposedly heard convict Jaybee Sebastian ordering Peter Co to provide money to De Lima, allegedly upon orders of Ronnie Dayan
  • Convict Vicente Sy who allegedly heard about the delivery of money but ended up admitting he never gave money to De Lima 
  • Convict Nonilo Arile who testified about rumors he heard in Bilibid
  • Former Col. Jerry Valeroso who received information from Arile and another inmate

Two convicts who were supposedly involved in the illegal drug trade have already died — Tony Co who was stabbed to death inside Bilibid in September 2016 and Jaybee Sebastian who died due to COVID-19 in July 2020.

But the prosecution introduced the affidavit of Sebastian which he executed 6 days before his death which added new allegations that he supposedly facilitated the delivery of P5 million between Peter Co and De Lima through Ragos.

He did not make this claim in his previous affidavits and during a hearing at the House of Representatives.

De Lima’s team rejected his affidavit as hearsay.

“Conclusively, there is nothing on record that serves as proof that first, herein Accused conspired and confederated with co-accused Ronnie Palisoc Dayan to commit illegal drug trading; Second, that the NBP inmates were used as vehicles to commit illegal drug trading,” De Lima said.

“And lastly, that the NBP inmates provided money equivalent to P10 million to herein Accused from the illegal drug trade,” she added.

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This is the second demurrer De Lima filed, which, if granted, will lead to the dismissal of the case.

On Thursday, she moved to junk the drugs case involving co-accused Jose Adrian Dera who supposedly collected, on her behalf, P3 million from Peter Co supposedly through his niece Sally Serrano.

But Serrano testified the money was intended as ransom payment to avoid another kidnapping incident or being framed for bogus drugs charges.

Prosecution is still presenting evidence in the third case before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 involving former BuCor Director Franklin Bucayu, Joenel Sanchez, Wilfredo Elli, Dayan, Sebastian and Dera over alleged conspiracy to commit drug trade in BIlibid from March 2013 to May 2015 allegedly amounting to P70 million.

De Lima has filed motions to post bail in all 3 drugs cases.

She has likewise filed a demurrer to evidence in her disobedience to summons case in a Quezon City court filed by 3 lawmakers over her alleged instructions for co-accused Ronnie Dayan not to appear before a congressional hearing.