By Atty. Howie Calleja
Our long tale all began when two former employees of the Department of Justice came forward to Former DOJ Secretary Aguirre with affidavits implicating Senator De Lima in the Bilibid drug trade. Jonathan Caranto and Edna Obuyes, both former receiving clerks in the department under De Lima, presented bank deposit slips showing money transfers in millions of pesos to Ronnie Dayan’s account. They said De Lima asked them to make those deposits. Secretary Aguirre claimed Caranto and Obuyes were not coerced into signing the affidavits and that they volunteered to testify in order to clear their names.
Secretary Aguirre also bared to the media that other NBI agents, former Bureau of Corrections officials, and at least 12 high profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prison have executed sworn statements against De Lima with two of those witnesses claiming to have personally handed ₱5 million in cash to the former Justice Secretary at her house in Parañaque. Aguirre also announced that convicted drug lord Herbert Colanggo was among those who have executed their affidavits and who agreed to testify against Sen. De Lima.
To date, Rafael Ragos (a former officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Corrections), Kerwin Espinosa (self-confessed “drug lord’) and Marcelo Adorco (bodyguard and driver of self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa) all retracted their allegations against De Lima. As such, they manifested that the statements they made against the Senator were false and was the result only of pressure, coercion, intimidation, and serious threats to their life and family members from “authorities” who instructed him to implicate the Senator into the illegal drug trade.
Adding more insult to injury, the Drug Trade inside the prison haven’t really stopped. Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Officer-In-Charge Gregoio Catapang Jr. (who took over the post after President Ferdinand R. Marcos’ order to place Director General Gerald Bantag under indefinite preventive suspension following the death of Jun Villamor) said in a press briefing the existence of an underground selling of 7,512 cans of “Red Horse Extra Strong Beer”, likewise seized after the search (under “Oplan Galugad”) were improvised bladed weapons, more than PHP50,000 cash, playing cards, mobile phones and laptop computers, as well as sachets of suspected shabu.
Moreover, the Department of Justice, which announced, in June 2020, the creation of a panel that would review deaths in the “drug war” attributed to police officers, said, in September 2021, that it was now investigating 52 cases involving 154 police officers implicated in questionable killings. This followed its admission before the UN Human Rights Council, in February, that officers failed to follow protocols during these operations. In many cases, police made no effort to examine allegedly recovered weapons, verify ownership, or conduct ballistic examinations. In most of the cases the Department of Justice reviewed, police also failed to follow standard protocols in the coordination of drug raids and in the processing of crime scene evidence.
Honestly, the facts are now clear. Sen. Laila De Lima — an innocent woman was imprisoned for a political charade, whose main purpose was to silence her as a political critic. All of which was to use it as a subterfuge to cover-up the corruption lurking inside our Maximum-Security Prison and the bigger picture of a failed drug war. It is only but a shame that an honest and patriotic woman was used in our country’s own version of our GAME OF THRONES.