I knew of De Lima’s drug dealings – Duterte

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte knew beforehand about the alleged involvement of Sen. Leila de Lima in the burgeoning drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when she was justice secretary.

Duterte said as president, he had gained influence that allowed him to deal with sensitive matters. 

“Nung sinabi ko na (when I said that) De Lima, you better hang yourself, alam ko na (I already knew),” Duterte said in a speech at the Philippine National Police Regional Police Office XII in General Santos City yesterday.

The House of Representatives committee on justice is investigating allegations that De Lima accepted campaign donations from drug lords for her senatorial bid.

Duterte again expressed his dislike of De Lima, calling her “ugly” and slammed her anew for making him a “whipping boy” when she raised human rights abuses in Davao when he was mayor of the city.

Duterte said he was careful about setting a meeting with De Lima, hinting it might lead to something personal. 

“Alam ko na noon pa. Ito alam ko na (I knew this long before. I knew it),” he said.

But the President said despite his knowledge, he opted to task Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to handle the matter.

NBI to verify drug money

Aguirre said he would instruct the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to verify if the money coming from the drug trade at the NBP was invested in private corporations.

Aguirre said yesterday the NBI would look into the alleged involvement of some Filipino-owned corporations in the drug trade.

But with the voluminous information that he has received, Aguirre would turn over the investigation to the NBI once its director Dante Gierran returns from his trip abroad.

“I will be out of the investigation and I would tell the NBI to continue the investigation. I will turn over these documents to the NBI,” Aguirre said.

“The NBI would pursue the case because there are more leads and the NBI is more trained than us and we have no people who could pursue these leads, especially unearthing their bank accounts, the corporations that might be linked to this illegal drug trade.

“We would be able to establish the link if there would be a corporation with stockholders who would be connected or are friends of drug lords,” he added.

Aguirre also obtained a copy of the Anti-Money Laundering Council report from the NBI that would be used to further the investigation.

He said he is pleased with the information shared by the AMLC. The report contains information, which has “indirect links” to De Lima.

“If it was a direct link that would mean deposits made to her account. If there is any link it would be indirect because these are bank accounts of her 10 friends and employees,” Aguirre said.

“We are still on the first wave. We have several bank account records (to check),” he added.

Comelec to help in probe vs De Lima

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday expressed readiness to help in the ongoing congressional inquiry into allegations that De Lima received campaign donations from drug lords.         

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body is ready if required by the House to present De Lima’s Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE), which she submitted to the Comelec.

“The SOCE is a public document so if this is asked by the House committee, we are prepared to provide it to them,” he added. 

Bautista, however, admitted that the Comelec cannot identify if there were drug lords in De Lima’s list of campaign donors.

“We don’t have a list of such confidential information. That’s why we said we don’t have the technical knowhow to make that determination,” Bautista explained.    

“A candidate should not accept money coming from any illegal source, but as you know it is also difficult to get evidence and prove it since drug lords would not directly give the money,” he added.

In her SOCE, De Lima declared that she received total contributions of P86,831,095 and spent P88,153,300 for her senatorial bid.

Bautista also said if there is a complaint filed against De Lima, the Comelec is ready to look into it. But since De Lima is already a sitting senator, the complaint may be beyond the Comelec’s jurisdiction. 

“Again, we need to look at the law because she has already been proclaimed, thus the complaint may be filed before the Senate Electoral Tribunal,” he explained.

Erap: De Lima should resign

For Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, the embattled senator should “voluntarily resign” out of delicadeza.

In a press conference yesterday, Estrada said the evidence presented by high-profile inmates of the NBP against De Lima in the congressional hearing is very strong.

“Given all the accusations against her, I think she should resign,” Estrada said. “Whatever is happening inside the New Bilibid Prison, it was her responsibility.”

“That is why I am calling on all the Filipino people to support President Duterte’s all-out war against illegal drugs. We would not have known the extent of the proliferation of illegal drugs in our country had President Duterte not launched an all-out war against illegal drugs,” he added.

Estrada noted that it was Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde of the National Capital Region Police Office who bared that 1,706 barangays in the NCR are drug-affected.

“That is equivalent to 94 percent of all the barangays in Metro Manila this year. It registered an increase of two percent, from 92 percent in 2015. I was informed that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency is reviewing the criteria of identifying drug-affected barangays,” Estrada said.

“It is in this context that the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program was revived last year… The DARE program complements President Duterte’s campaign against drugs. While President Duterte’s campaign goes after the drug lords, drug pushers and drug addicts, the DARE program touches base with very young Filipinos who are often at the top of the list of victims of drug dealers,” he added. – Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan, Mayen Jaymalin, Jose Rodel Clapano

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