VACC, ex-NBI execs oppose De Lima's plea to transfer drug cases

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2016 04:00 PM

Two groups of complainants in the drug cases against Senator Leila de Lima before the Department of Justice (DOJ) formally opposed her motion to have the cases transferred to the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the duo of former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala filed on Friday their five-page joint opposition with the panel handling the preliminary investigation of the four consolidated complaints.

Complainants argued that the inhibition of the DOJ and the transfer of the cases to the anti-graft office as sought by De Lima are contrary to law and the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DOJ and Ombudsman on concurrent jurisdiction over offenses against public officers and employees.

The MOA was inked between De Lima, during her stint as Justice Secretary, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Complainants insist that since the complaints against De Lima are violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165, also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, the trial court, not the Sandiganbayan, has jurisdiction over these cases.

As such, the preliminary investigation into the complaints fall under the primary jurisdiction of the DOJ since the MOA between the DOJ and the Ombudsman state that "the office where such a complaint is filed for preliminary investigation shall acquire jurisdiction over the complaint to the exclusion of the other."

"Considering that the complainants were filed before the [DOJ], the Office of the Ombudsman has no more jurisdiction over the instant cases. Thus, to grant the Omnibus Motion of the respondent is to violate the very MOA that she signed in her capacity as Secretary of Justice."

"More importantly, aside from the MOA between the DOJ and the OMB, Section 90 of RA No. 9165 specifically provides that '[t]he DOJ shall designate special prosecutors to exclusively handle cases involving violations of this Act,' and "[t]he preliminary investigation of cases filed under this Act shall be terminated within a period of thirty days from the date of their filing," the joint opposition read.

In her omnibus motion, De Lima sought the inhibition of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and the five-member panel of prosecutors, arguing that "[t]he investigation of these cases is within the exclusive authority and sole jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman; and [c]onsidering the partiality, bias and lack of objectivity of the Secretary of Justice (Aguirre) and the panel of investigating prosecutors in these cases, these officials should inhibit themselves and instead refer the cases to the Office of the Ombudsman."

The complaints against De Lima, and several others involve the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

De Lima is being accused of using her position as Secretary of Justice to force high-profile inmates into selling huge volumes of methamphetamine hydrochloride ("shabu") to fund her senatorial campaign.

She dismissed the allegation as mere persecution by the administration.