MANILA - (UPDATED) Former Justice Secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima on Monday described as "pathetic" a report that she is one of 226 individuals allegedly named by Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. as having links to the illegal drug trade before he was killed inside a jail last Saturday.
De Lima, a known critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, criticized reports that she was allegedly named as a drug coddler by Mayor Espinosa before he was killed in an alleged shootout. She said she did not even know the slain Albuera town mayor.
"Nakakatawa na po sila to the point of being pathetic already. Hindi ko naman kilala si Espinosa na yan," she said in a press briefing.
De Lima cited a Cebu Daily News report quoting Espinosa's sibling as saying the mayor had confessed that his drug affidavit was fabricated and was prepared by someone else.
She also likened the affidavit to what she called the "fabricated" testimony of convicted crime lord Jaybee Sebastian who told a House of Representatives inquiry that he gave the senator millions of pesos in drug money when she was still Justice secretary.
"Iyung affidavit na iyan [ni Espinosa] ay inabot lang sa kanya at iyung mga sinasabi doon, lalo na iyung mga pangalan ay hindi daw galing sa kanya. Katulad lang din iyan ng mga so-called affidavit ng mga nag-testify doon sa House inquiry, katulad nun ni Mr. Jaybee Sebastian na pinilit lang sa kanya," she said.
(The affidavit was only handed to him and its contents, especially the names listed there, were not from him. That is just like the so-called affidavit of Jaybee Sebastian who was also coerced.)
"Pilit na naman akong nili-link, ini-implicate kay Espinosa, wala nang katapusan. Kaya nga ang paborito kong battlecry ngayon, 'Invent pa more.' Fabrication na naman iyan," she added.
(They are again trying to link me, implicate me through Espinosa, it never seems to end. That's why my favorite battlecry now is, 'Invent pa more.' That is a mere fabrication.)
De Lima also criticized government authorities for the death of Espinosa who was already incarcerated at the Baybay Provincial Jail before he was killed allegedly in a shootout with operatives of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
She theorized that Espinosa was killed by those who have links to the drug trade.
She also said there was a possibility Espinosa would retract the alleged statement linking her to the drug trade.
The former justice chief said her ongoing word war with Duterte is an "unwinnable battle" since the President is the one making sure that she is placed behind bars.
Duterte had alleged that De Lima's former driver and alleged lover collected money from drug lords detained at the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary.
On Monday, De Lima filed a petition for habeas data against Duterte. The petition for habeas data is a legal remedy to secure information related to a person whose life or liberty is at risk.
She said her camp will lodge more cases against the President and other officials leading the "harassment" against her.
A LIST BEFORE HIS DEATH
In a DZMM interview, Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, head of the Albuera Municipal Police, said he was able to persuade Espinosa to name officials with alleged links to the illegal drug trade.
He said Espinosa's affidavit included De Lima's name and several others including:
- former CIDG-Region8 Director, Superintendent Joey Masunding;
- retired Ormoc City Jail warden Joseph Nuñez;
- Victor Espina Jr., the brother of retired Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina; and,
- Jonnah John Ungab, the incumbent vice mayor of Ronda town in Cebu.
The Albuera police has filed anti-drug complaints against 80 individuals in Espinosa's affidavit, Espenido said.
Espenido admitted that Espinosa's death dealt a heavy blow to the cases filed.
"We know that here in the Philippines, the case is often dropped if the complainant or the witnesses die. Cases are sometimes dismissed even if they alive, what more if they are already dead," he said.
He added that he is uncertain if the testimony of Espinosa's son, suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa who was arrested in Abu Dhabi last October, could bolster the case.
"Makasiguro ako na si Mayor talaga ang tumulong sa gobyerno para malaman talaga kung sino iyung mga protector nila kasi nagbigay na siya ng salaysay. Kay Kerwin, hindi ako makasiguro kasi hindi natin alam kung sino ang maghawak," he said.
"Sabi nga rin ng mga kasamahan ko sa serbisyo, pwedeng isangkot tayo para iyung credibility ng leader ng nag-iimbestiga sa kanya, masira. Ang dami talaga ng mga expectation ko, baka naman din patayin."
PNP chief Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa has ordered an investigation into Espinosa's death, promising that there would be no cover-up in the process. -- With a report from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News