Dismissed bribery complaints vs De Lima can’t be invoked for her release on drugs charges – DOJ

Published August 14, 2022, 11:25 AM

by Jeffrey Damicog


The Department of Justice (DOJ) reiterated that the dismissal by the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) of the direct and indirect bribery complaints against former Senator and ex-Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima cannot be used as basis for her release from detention on non-bailable illegal drugs cases filed against her in court.

DOJ Spokesperson Jose Dominic Clavano on Saturday, Aug. 14, said: “Magkaiba ng elements nung bribery at illegal drugs trade (The elements of bribery are different from those of illegal drugs trading).”

“Ibang-iba ang ebidensya na kelangan para patunayan ang bribery at drugs trade (The pieces of evidence are different to probe bribery and drugs trade),” Clavano stressed.

Clavano’s comment was sought after the Gabriela Party-List called for the release of De Lima on the basis of the OMB’s ruling.

Dismissed by the OMB were the complaints against De Lima and her former aide Ronnie Dayan on alleged attempt to extort P8 million from self-confessed drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa in exchange for his protection.

In dismissing the complaint, the OMB cited the “glaring inconsistencies” in the testimonies of Kerwin and government witness Marcelo L. Adorco. The testimonies, it said, prevented the conclusion that De Lima and Dayan are probably guilty of the offenses charged against them.

“After a painstaking review of the records, it appears that there is no probable cause to indict the respondents (De Lima and Dayan) of the charges against them,” the OMB said in its resolution.

The OMB investigates complaints against public officials and employees for their alleged offenses committed in relation to their duties like graft and corruption, bribery, malversation of public funds and falsification of public documents.

Once the OMB finds probable cause (a reasonable ground or well-founded presumption that an offense is committed), it files the criminal aspect of the offense before the Sandiganbayan for employees or officials with salary grade 27 or higher, or before the regional trial court (RTC) for those below salary grade 27.

Violations of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) like murder, homicide, and human trafficking, and special laws like the Dangerous Drugs Act under Republic Act No. 9165 are investigated by the prosecution service of the DOJ.

In an earlier statement, the DOJ assured that its 2017 resolution on the filing of illegal drug charges against De Lima is not in conflict with the recent ruling of the OMB.

“The Department would like to reiterate and point out that we are consistent with the recent resolution of the Ombudsman,” the DOJ said.

In 2017, the DOJ filed drug charges before the Muntinlupa City regional trial court (RTC) after finding probable cause to indict De Lima on her alleged involvement in the proliferation of the illegal drugs trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

“In the DOJ Resolution, the Panel did not consider the testimony of Kerwin Espinosa as there was no corroborating evidence to support his allegation that he delivered P8 million to the former Senator for future protection,” the DOJ said.

“Therefore, it was clear to the DOJ Panel of Prosecutors that Espinosa’s confession on the allegation of payment for protection was not convincing,” it said.

It pointed out that “these cases (dismissed by OMB) pertain to the bribery charges against former Senator de Lima. Before the Muntinlupa courts are the drug trade charges which have completely different elements to be proven than that of bribery,” it added.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla had reiterated the DOJ’s stand to let the court decide on the illegal drugs charges filed against De Lima. “It’s up to the courts,” he said.

On the dismissal of De Lima’s criminal cases, Remulla admitted a number of individuals and groups have already approached him seeking the DOJ’s withdrawal of the drug charges.

“Dami na (There are many already), diplomats mostly,” the justice secretary said. “I just had to explain the situation to them,” he added.

Clavano reminded that the trial of the drug charges is ongoing. ”We have already presented our evidence,” he said. “It is former Senator De Lima’s turn to present hers,” he added.

De Lima has been detained at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City since 2017 on non-bailable charges under Criminal Case Nos. 17-165 and 17-167 before the Muntinlupa City RTC.