Ombudsman clears De Lima of bribery raps

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Ombudsman clears De Lima of bribery raps
This photo of former Sen. Leila de Lima was taken on July 29, 2022 after the hearing at Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 204.
Office of Leila De Lima / release

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed bribery complaints against former Sen. Leila De Lima and her former aide Ronnie Dayan for lack of probable cause.

The Special Team of Investigators - Office of the Ombudsman, which filed the complaints, failed to provide "a clear, accurate and consistent narration of facts" that would show that De Lima and Dayan may have committed Direct Bribery or Indirect Bribery, the Office of the Ombudsman said.

The complaint filed by the Special Team of Investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman on Oct. 8, 2018 was anchored on the testimonies of Kerwin Espinosa, Ram-Jhon Micharl Espinosa and Marcelo Adorco.

Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Daniel Von Evan Panelo signed the resolution dated January 5, 2022. De Lima's lawyers only received a copy of the resolution on Tuesday.


De Lima was accused of collecting funds in preparation of the 2016 elections, with Espinosa claiming he gave several tranches of millions of pesos each to Dayan, amounting to P8 million.

Espinosa in April recanted his allegations against De Lima and said, in a counter-affidavit in a separate drug rap, that he was "only coerced, pressured, intimated, and seriously threatened by the police" during Senate hearings in November and December 2016.

In dismissing the complaint, the Ombudsman said: "After a painstaking review of records, it appears that there is no probable cause to indict the respondents of the charges against them."

The anti-graft office said the testimonies presented by the Special Team of Investigators have glaring inconsistencies.

The Ombudsman pointed out that during all the occasions Espinosa said he gave money to Dayan, De Lima was never there. In Adorco’s version of events, Espinosa handed the money directly to De Lima.

"The inconsistencies in the testimonies of the complainant’s witnesses cannot be brushed as trivial or inconsequential. The incongruities pertain to material details that cast doubt on the veracity of the accusation that de Lima, through Dayan, had collected bribe money from Kerwin," the resolution read.

Recantations and call for release

Espinosa was just the first of three personalities linked to drug cases against De Lima who have retracted their allegations against the former senator.

Dayan and government star witness Rafael Ragos, former head of the Bureau of Corrections, have also done so.

De Lima has already been acquitted in one drug case but is facing two more—she has moved for the dismissal of one case, bringing to the Muntinlupa court the recantations of the three personalities.

Prior to assuming his post, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said he is willing to review the cases against De Lima as he flagged the recantations.

But faced with a call from two minority senators to drop the charges and free De Lima, Remulla said on July 26 that the matter is already within the jurisdiction of the Muntinlupa trial court.

"Based on records, Ragos has not been presented by the defense as a witness before the Muntinlupa Court. Hence, the department will rely on the sound discretion of the appreciation of this alleged evidence," the statement from the Office of the Justice Secretary read.

A similar call for De Lima's release was filed at the House earlier Tuesday by Makabayan bloc lawmakers.

De Lima has been detained at the police headquarters in Quezon City since February 2017. She has repeatedly denied accusations against her, calling them politically-motivated, which the Duterte government had denied.



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