De Lima appeals after Muntinlupa prosecutor’s office junks drug complaint vs prisoner

Published September 22, 2021, 10:08 AM

by Jonathan Hicap

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima has filed an appeal with the Muntinlupa prosecutor’s office after it dismissed a complaint she filed against a prisoner for conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.

In June, De Lima filed the complaint before the Muntinlupa prosecutor’s office against Joel Capones, a prisoner who is one of the witnesses by the prosecution against her in Criminal Case No. 17-167 pending before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256.

Senator Leila de Lima arrives at the Muntinlupa Hall of Justice to attend a hearing in one of her drug cases last March (Office of Senator Leila de Lima)

Under 17-167, De Lima is charged with conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading together with former Bureau of Corrections director Franklin Jesus Bucayu, Wilfredo Elli, Ronnie Dayan, Joenel Sanchez, Jose Adrian Dera and Jaybee Sebastian, who died in July 2020.

The case was originally filed on Feb. 14, 2017 as illegal drug trading but the prosecution changed it to conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading, which the court approved.

De Lima used Capones’ testimony in court to file the complaint against him. In her complaint-affidavit filed with the Muntinlupa prosecutor’s office on June 9, De Lima charged that during the direct examination by the prosecution last Feb. 16, “Capones confessed his participation in the commission of the crime of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading within the jurisdiction of the RTC-Muntinlupa City, Branch 256, particularly, that sometime in the first week of January 2014 up to October of the same year, together with his 13 mayores of the Sigue Sigue Sputnik Gang, including (1) one Ferdie Morellos (2), one Reynaldo Punga and (3), one Anton Miya, he agreed to sell and actually sold illegal drugs at the New Bilibid Prison.”

“Despite such confession, Mr. Capones up to now has not been charged with any crime in relation to the crime he confessed to in open court,” said De Lima.

She added, “This confession admits to his participation in a conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading within the meaning of Section 26(b) in relation to Section 5 and Section 3(j) of R.A. No. 9165, squarely in accordance with the Prosecution’s theory and interpretation of the law under which they are currently prosecuting me,” referring to the law Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

However, in a resolution dated Aug. 31 signed by Assistant City Prosecutor Jan Michael Valdez and approved by Muntinlupa City Prosecutor Aileen Marie Gutierrez, the Muntinlupa prosecutor’s office dismissed De Lima’s complaint for insufficient evidence.

“Complainants in this case failed to substantiate their allegations of the drug trade or conspiracy to commit drug trade insofar as the respondents are concerned. The evidence submitted, lamentably, is insufficient to engender a belief, that is well founded, that the alleged crimes were committed,” according to the resolution.

It added, “The admission or confession of respondent Capones in Criminal Case No. 17-167 can only be considered an extra-judicial confession inasmuch as he is not a party-accused in the said case. His admissions or confessions in his written affidavit and testimony in the Congressional hearing is also an extra-judicial confession, which by itself, cannot be a basis for conviction without any proof of the corpus delicti, meaning proof of the commission of the crime, other than the admission or confession. Hence, the undersigned investigating prosecutor is constrained to dismiss the case for insufficiency of evidence.”

But in her motion for reconsideration filed on Sept. 21 before the prosecutor’s office, De Lima pointed out the Muntinlupa prosecutor’s office “violated the Rules of Evidence in ruling that in a preliminary investigation, a confession is insufficient against the confessor.”

“The rules are clear in stating that the declaration of the accused acknowledging his guilt of an offense can be used as evidence against him. This means that the confession could have been made in court before a judge, or anywhere else in the world in any other place outside the courtroom or in the hearing of his own trial,” she said.

According to De Lima, “In fact, Capones submitted that he was willing that anything that he has said and testified to can be used against him in any proceeding, including a preliminary investigation such as the instant proceedings.”

“It is therefore surprising why Capones would suddenly backtrack on this condition to his confession after being warned that anything he said could and would be used against him. In effect, he is now saying that he will say whatever he wants to say in Criminal Case No. 17-167, but whatever he says SHOULD NOT be used against him in other proceedings,” she added.

She said, “Capones would like to eat his cake and keep it too. He wants his confession, ironically, to bind everyone else he has implicated in his testimony, specifically herein Complainant, EXCEPT HIMSELF. Capones is saying that his confession IS ONLY GOOD AGAINST HEREIN COMPLAINANT in Criminal Case No. 17-167, BUT NOT AGAINST HIM IN ANY PROCEEDING FILED AGAINST HIM.”

“The Honorable Office cannot just go on making up jurisprudence as it goes along disposing of preliminary investigation cases. It is not the Supreme Court. It is not even the Secretary of Justice who can issue legal opinions. It is a mere city prosecutorial service that has no power and authority laying down new jurisprudence or issuing legal opinions. Its decisions must always be based on law and established jurisprudence,” she said.

De Lima stated that “this is scraping the bottom of the barrel for legal justifications, in order to save the confessed criminal witnesses of the DOJ Panel of Prosecutors in Criminal Case No. 17-167 from their own confessions, conveniently to be used only against herein Complainant, while the confessed drug lords themselves are exempted from any kind of accountability whatsoever. This is no worse than Makapili ‘justice’ in the time of the Japanese occupation, where hooded informants are pampered and rewarded by the Japanese occupiers, while the innocent townspeople are publicly executed via firing squads on the mere say-so of a paid snitch.”