Senator Leila De Lima will be facing drug trafficking charges after members of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed a case before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday due to her alleged links and involvement in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
A criminal complaint filed VACC states that the senator has violated the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act by asserting that she has conspired with some of the officials belonging to the previous administration as well as with high-profile NBP inmates during her time as the secretary of the DOJ.
De Lima were charged with the violation of Section 5 (sale and trading of illegal drugs) in relation to Section 26 (b) (conspiracy) of Republic Act 9165. If guilty, she will face penalties of life imprisonment and a fine ranging between P500,000 and P10 million.
“Sen. De Lima utilized her power and authority as then secretary of justice to abet and even promote the proliferation of massive drug trade inside the Bilibid,” the complaint stated.
The complaint was filed by Dante Jimenez, VACC founding chair, through his lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.
VACC claims that De Lima, being the DOJ secretary, used her powers to put in position her cohorts at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) so that she will be able to successfully maneuver the drug trade from inside the NBP. The watchdog cited snippets from the testimonies of several witnesses presented before the House of Representatives’ inquiry on the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the NBP.
The anti-crime group also said that De Lima’s influence and power were used to offer shield and protection to the respondents of the case to “ensure the invisibility in the conduct of their illegal trade.” It added the De Lima was successfully able to “eliminate the competitors of Jaybee (Sebastian) inside the prison” by ordering their transfer to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters.
Seven other individuals were also charged the same. VACC said that the illegal drug trade inside the NBP was made possible through the conspiracy of several officials and inmates. These seven individuals are former BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu, Bucayu’s alleged bagman Wilfredo Ely, Jaybee Sebastian, former DOJ undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, De Lima’s former aides Ronnie Dayan, Joenel Sanchez, and Jose Adrian Dera.
“Between 2012 and 2016, respondents, conspiring and confederating with one another, engaged in the sale and trade of illegal drugs inside and outside the Bilibid,” the complaint reads.
In an interview, Topacio stated the following:
The act of one is the act of all. The mastermind was De Lima.
The VACC submitted to the DOJ as bases of the complaint the sworn affidavits and testimonies of several officials led by National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Rafael Ragos and several high-profile inmates led by robbery convict Herbert Colanggo in the House inquiry.
The witnesses have claimed De Lima received millions in cash from the drug money raised by high-profile inmates to support her senatorial campaign in the elections last May.
De Lima allegedly used her authority to appoint officials inside BuCor and NBP to protect illegal drug transactions in the national penitentiary.
Baraan also allegedly received millions and was in charge of transfer of inmates who would not cooperate with the drug trade, while Bucayu supposedly collected the drug money for higher-ups.
On the other hand, Sebastian was tagged by Colanggo and other inmates as the alleged “fund raiser” of De Lima.
Sebastian denied the allegation when he faced the House inquiry on Monday, but admitted giving P10 million to De Lima.
Dayan and Sanchez were tagged as bagmen of De Lima.
The VACC believed that Colanggo and other witnesses were able to give details on how the illegal drug trade operated inside the NBP upon the protection and intervention of De Lima with the help of other respondents.