MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has placed Sen. Leila de Lima and five others under an immigration lookout bulletin order (ILBO) after witnesses tagged them in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
In a three-page memorandum to the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II issued the ILBO against De Lima, her former aides Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez, former Department of Justice (DOJ) undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director Franklin Jesus Bucayu and former Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission executive director Reginald Villasanta.
De Lima slammed the bulletin, saying it was unnecessary because she did not intend to flee, as she dared authorities to arrest her.
“Obviously, the persecution continues by these men without balls,” De Lima said. “I already dared them to arrest me, but no one came. I challenge this administration and the President: you’ve been ganging up on me for three months, using the entire government machinery, are you that cowardly and inutile? Are you really men?”
She vowed to challenge the lookout bulletin as she decried anew her “persecution” by a “kangaroo court.”
“Considering the gravity of the possible commission of any offense, there is a strong possibility that they may attempt to place themselves beyond the reach of legal processes of this department by leaving the country,” the order stated. “We thus deem the issuance of an ILBO against the subject persons prudent in order to at least monitor the itineraries of their flight, travel and/or whereabouts.”
The ILBO specifically directed all immigration officers “to be on alert for the above-named individuals should they pass through the immigration counters in any of our international ports and/or seaports.”
The ILBO does not prevent the departure of the subjects, as it was issued only for monitoring purposes.
But it requires De Lima and other incumbent government officials and employees in the list to secure travel authority from their heads of office before they could leave the country.
The DOJ issued the order upon request of the National Bureau of Investigation.
Baraan is reportedly in the US for medical treatment. He left last August even before he was implicated in the NBP drug trade and before Congress started its inquiry on the matter.
Congress, meanwhile, has summoned Dayan to its hearings, but he could not be located.
De Lima, Bucayu, Villasanta and Sanchez remain in the country.
Witnesses in the House of Representatives inquiry earlier accused De Lima, Bucayu and Baraan of receiving millions in drug money from high-profile inmates in the NBP.
Sanchez was tagged as De Lima’s bagman, but he denied the allegation and instead bolstered allegations that the lady senator had an affair with Dayan, her former driver-bodyguard, when she was still DOJ chief.
Villasanta allegedly attempted to accompany Bucayu when the latter asked former police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Benjamin Magalong to drop the raid at the NBP in 2014.
It was De Lima herself who formulated the rules on the ILBO when she was still DOJ secretary.
The ILBO was crafted in lieu of the DOJ’s power to issue a watch list order and hold departure order on personalities facing fact-finding or preliminary investigation on criminal charges, as the Supreme Court stopped these in 2011 upon a petition from former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
De Lima irked
Meanwhile, De Lima hit the ILBO issuance against her, vowing to question it before the courts.
“There is still no basis for a lookout bulletin against me,” the senator asserted, saying the DOJ has not filed a case against her with the Office of the Ombudsman despite the ongoing hearings in the House of Representatives.
“I don’t think a lookout bulletin can be justified using a kangaroo court’s persecution of a sitting senator,” De Lima said. “I will take the necessary legal action against this latest assault on my person by my successor at the DOJ.”
She said the Duterte administration and its allies have done worse against her in the past several weeks, and the lookout bulletin was mere icing on the cake.
Calling the lookout bulletin pointless, De Lima said she has no intention of leaving the country, unless it would be for some “engagement or what.”
“They should not waste their time because I have no plans of leaving the country to escape the crisis,” she said. “If I leave the country, it would be because of a good reason, maybe, if I am invited to a speaking engagement. I’m innocent; only the guilty flees.”
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