The Office of the Ombudsman will not investigate on its own Sen. Leila de Lima’s alleged links to the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said.
In an interview, Morales said the anti-graft agency would first let the Department of Justice (DOJ) look into the accusations based on a complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
“It’s not going to happen because these are all allegations and there is no lead yet that would prompt us to initiate our investigation,” she told reporters when asked if the Office of the Ombudsman is willing to conduct a motu propio probe on the issue.
“When the case comes to us and if we believe that the fact-finding investigation is exhaustive enough to merit our preliminary investigation, if there is any crime committed, then we will go through it,” she said.
The DOJ, she explained, should be given the opportunity to conduct its fact-finding investigation.
“If it’s necessary, and if they believe that there is reason to conduct further investigation, and for us to conduct preliminary investigation, then the case will come to us,” she pointed out.
As for the case filed by Albuera town police chief, Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, in Leyte, Morales said the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas would have to evaluate the complaint first.
“It has not reached us. Usually, the Visayas office conducts fact-finding investigation and if it involves a high-ranking official, it is forwarded to us,” she said.
“Otherwise, if it’s a low-ranking official, it’s the deputy ombudsman for Visayas which handles the matter,” she added.
Morales said no criminal investigation is being conducted on policemen allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade but lifestyle checks are being initiated.
“We’re conducting lifestyle investigations,” she revealed, pointing out that since the Philippine National Police (PNP) is already investigating, “it’s just going to be an exercise in futility if we also initiate (another probe).”
“We will just await any investigation report from the police if the report will reach us at all,” she said.
Last week, the VACC filed a complaint against De Lima and seven others for their alleged involvement in the sale and trade of illegal drugs inside and outside the NBP from 2012 to 2016.
The charge sheet accused the senator of violating Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 by allegedly conspiring with former DOJ undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, De Lima’s security aide Joenel Sanchez, her former driver Ronnie Dayan, Bucayu’s former staff Wilfredo Ely, Jose Adrian Dera and Bilibid inmate Jaybee Sebastian.
Days later, Espenido lodged a separate complaint against De Lima also for alleged violation of the anti-illegal drugs law before the Eastern Visayas regional office of the Office of the Ombudsman.
The police official said the senator and former secretary of the DOJ received money from Kerwin Espinosa, the top Eastern Visayas drug lord and son of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa.
As the DOJ and the ombudsman Eastern Visayas regional office tackle the allegations against De Lima and the others, House committee on justice chairman Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said the testimonies by convicts against her were “unrebutted, uncontroverted.”
But Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez made it clear to his colleagues the chamber’s main objective in investigating the matter is to come up with relevant legislation and not to prosecute erring officials.
“It is not our job to determine whether they are credible or not, or find out the probative value of their testimony. We’ll leave that to the DOJ, the determination of probable cause or prima facie evidence or anything beyond that,” Umali stressed.
Besides, two cases of drug trafficking have been filed against De Lima. “It’s already a foregone conclusion. Recommending prosecution at this point is a stale issue,” Umali pointed out.
“This is not a full-blown investigation. What we did was in aid of legislation. If we pursue that, we will appear to be singling out Senator De Lima,” he explained, noting that there are other “culpable employees” involved, like the Bureau of Corrections jail guards.
“We would rather DOJ do its job rather than us doing it for them. We don’t have the National Bureau of Investigation or intelligence people who can check who violated the laws of the country. We are not judges. The DOJ would know better,” he stressed.
Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, for his part, observed that there may have been some inconsistencies in the testimonies of inmates who might be trying to “protect themselves.”
But he observed their “common denominator” was De Lima.
Another deputy speaker, Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. of Camarines Sur, said he found the inmate-witnesses to be “credible.”
Source:THE PHILIPPINE STAR
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