By Jomar Canlas & Jefferson Antiporda/Manila Times
Embattled Senator Leila de Lima and her ex-driver and lover, Ronnie Dayan, snubbed the preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on drug trafficking cases filed against them.
De Lima did not send a lawyer before the five-man panel of prosecutors investigating the criminal complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and former NBI deputy directors Ruel Lasala and Reynaldo Esmeralda, but sent a representative to get copies of the complaints and evidence.
The VACC asked the prosecutors to resolve the complaints, but de Lima and other respondents were given another hearing, on December 21, to submit their responses.
De Lima later filed a motion asking Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and his team of prosecutors to inhibit themselves from hearing the complaints, alleging bias.
“The integrity of the investigation in these cases appears to be seriously tainted and deeply compromised as no less than the president and the DOJ secretary had prejudged the guilt of respondent Senator de Lima,” she said in her motion.
“In this environment, where the president and the DOJ secretary have complete control and supervision over the work of their subordinates at the DOJ, it is a foregone conclusion that the conduct and the results of the investigation will not be impartial and objective,” it added.
De Lima earlier claimed the DOJ had no power to conduct the probe against her, and that jurisdiction belonged to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Friday’s hearing was intended for the official receipt of copies of the complaints by respondents. Those who failed to receive their copies would be sent the complaints and other records by mail.
Most of the respondents asked for a 30-day period to file their respective counter-affidavits, but the DOJ panel gave only 19 days.
New Bilibid Prison convicts Peter Co, Herbert Colanggo and Engelberto Durano, through their lawyers, were asked to subscribe to their counter-affidavits at the Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), where they are detained.
Former Bureau of Corrections director Rainier Cruz and high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian also failed to show up at the hearing.
As a result, the DOJ panel of prosecutors led by by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong decided to reschedule the probe to December 21.
Other members of the panel are Senior Assistant City Prosecutors Alexander Ramos, Leila Llanes, Evangeline Viudez-Canobas and Assistant State Prosecutor Editha Fernandez.
De Lima and other respondents are accused of violating Section 5 (sale and trading of illegal drugs) in relation to Section 26 (b) (conspiracy) of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
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