Leila de Lima, ex-aide did not commit bribery, Ombudsman ruled

·Contributor
·3 min read
Former Philippine Senator Leila De Lima, arrested on drug charges, waves to supporters as she arrives to appear before a local court for her arraignment in Muntinlupa city, south of Manila, Philippines October 13, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)
Former Philippine Senator Leila De Lima, arrested on drug charges, waves to supporters as she arrives to appear before a local court for her arraignment in Muntinlupa city, south of Manila, Philippines October 13, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

The Office of the Ombudsman has junked the bribery case against former Senator Leila de Lima and her aide, Ronnie Dayan.

In a resolution dated July 22 but was only made public on Tuesday (Aug. 9), the Special Investigation team of the Office of the Ombudsman said that there were glaring inconsistencies in the testimonies of the complainants, and it found no probable cause for the accusation.

According to the resolution, these inconsistencies “would prevent a reasonable mind from concluding that the respondents are probably guilty of the offenses charged against them.”

Facts of the case

The complainants allege that de Lima supposedly received bribery money from convicted drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa, with the money being collected by Dayan. However, another testimony from a government witness, a prison inmate named Marcelo Adorco, said that de Lima directly received the money.

“According to Kerwin, he gave a total of P8 million [to] Dayan in behalf of de Lima on four different occasions. It is noteworthy that in all instances de Lima was never there and it was Dayan who received the money from Kerwin,” the resolution reads.

“However, in Adorco’s version of events Kerwin handed the money directly to de Lima when they had lunch at a Pasay restaurant,” it added.

Espinosa also said that de Lima got the P8 million supposed bribe money in four installments, however Adorco said that de Lima got it in full during a lunch meeting.

The resolution also said that the supposed meeting of de Lima and Espinosa “is likewise littered with inconsistencies making it difficult to conclude that Kerwin and the respondents had planned to meet each other there.”

“Thus, it is more likely that what happened in Baguio between Kerwin and de Lima was a chance encounter since the latter was there to boost her senatorial candidacy. This is especially true since according to Ram-Jhon, Kerwin had instructed him to book a trip to Baguio to get away from the chaos of the preparation for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Metro Manila,” the resolution said.

“Preliminary investigation also seeks to secure the innocent against hasty, malicious, and oppressive prosecution. Further, it aims to protect the innocent from an open and public accusation of a crime, from the trouble, expense, and anxiety of a public trial,” said the resolution, approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires.

Calls to free De Lima

Several lawmakers here and abroad have been pushing for de Lima’s release.

Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc have filed a resolution at the House of Representatives urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw the remaining charges against the former senator after at least three personalities recanting their statements allegedly linking de Lima to illegal drug trade.

“We’re filing this because her jail is a form of political harassment that has gone on for too long,” said Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel.

“The government should stop prosecution and persecution of government critics. We know that what they should be looking out for is their right to dissent,” Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas added.

A similar resolution was also filed at the Senate by the two-member minority bloc of Senators Koko Pimentel and Risa Hontiveros.

Senate Resolution No. 27, filed on July 14, likewise urged the DOJ to drop the charges and release de Lima from prison.

Kung hindi ako nagkakamali, early on sa administrasyon sinabi ng justice secretary na kung sakali hindi sila hahadlang. Kumukuha kami ng pag-asa doon,” Hontiveros said.

(If I’m not mistaken, the justice secretary said that they will not hinder a review [of De Lima’s case]. We are hoping for that.]

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of United States Senators, including Democratic Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Patrick Lahey of Vermont, as well as Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, called the “bogus charges” against de Lima “were, as we suspected all along, politically-motivated and based on false information.”

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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