Prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the illegal drug cases against Sen. Leila de Lima have admitted that the Banco De Oro (BDO) accounts identified by Bilibid witnesses as depositary accounts in the Bilibid drug trade do not belong to the detained Senator.
During Nov. 22 hearing of Criminal Cases 17-165 and 17-166 at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa, Branch 205 presided by Judge Liezel Aquiatan, the Prosecution, through Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Leilia R. Llanes, stipulated that the three BDO accounts identified by government witnesses Nonilo Arile, Engelberto Durano, and German Agojo as the accounts allegedly used to deposit De Lima’s alleged share in the proceeds of the drug trade are not in De Lima’s name.
Because of this, the prosecutors told the court that the subpoena for the details of said BDO accounts being requested by De Lima’s lawyers is no longer necessary. Instead, Llanes said the prosecution will submit to the court an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report – the contents of which are not yet final nearly three years after she was arrested.
As early as 2016 during the House Justice Committee hearing on the Bilibid drug trade, then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II announced that the DOJ had in its possession an AMLC report which allegedly showed “billions of pesos of drug money” deposited in De Lima’s bank account. However, up to the present, or more than three years after Aguirre’s boast, the DOJ, this time under Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, has yet to produce said AMLC report to prove that De Lima indeed received “billions” as her share in the proceeds of the Bilibid drug trade.
These questionable circumstances surrounding the non-production of the AMLC Report which, according to Llanes, “is still a work in progress”, led De Lima’s lawyers to claim that “either the AMLC Report is being manufactured and tailor-made to suit the requirements of the prosecution, or the DOJ is simply engaged in a drawn-out fishing expedition, in the absence of any bank transaction documents proving that De Lima indeed received proceeds of the drug trade. Mukhang pang-trial by publicity lang ang mga account na yun noon, Atty. Filibon Tacardon, one of the Senator’s legal counsels, said.
According to De Lima’s camp, the Prosecution’s admission will also affect their pending motion in Criminal Case No. 17-167 being heard by Judge Gener Gito of Branch 256 of the same Muntinlupa court. In said case, De Lima filed a request for the subpoena of the BDO bank accounts identified by Bilibid inmate-witness Engelberto Durano in his affidavit.
Tacardon also said they reiterated to Judge Gito their long-overdue request to have the relevant details on the three BDO accounts.
“Matagal na naming hinihingi yan (noong) September 2018 (pa). Hindi naaktuhan nung dating judge. For one reason or another, hindi inaaktuhan. Buti na lang itong bagong judge (ay) nag-commit na siya na reresolbahin (ang aming request to subpoena the BDO accounts),” he said.
As early as September 2018, De Lima asked RTC Muntinlupa Branch 256 to subpoena BDO records on three bank accounts mentioned by Durano in his Sinumpaang Salaysay and in the 2016 House Justice Committee hearing. Durano testified on the alleged remittances from Jeffrey Diaz alias “Jaguar,” an alleged drug lord in Cebu. He claimed that said remittances were meant for De Lima. “Jaguar” was killed by policemen in a shootout in Las Piñas City in June 2016.
Due to the inaction on the part of the RTC Muntinlupa Branch 256 in issuing the requested subpoena since 2018, De Lima filed a reiterative request last April. Despite Durano having been presented on the witness stand last Oct. 25, said court still failed to issue the requested subpoenas, thereby prompting De Lima’s camp to again reiterate on the same day their request to subpoena the bank accounts.
Tacardon earlier said they are confident that the details of the three BDO bank accounts will prove the former justice secretary’s innocence in the fabricated conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading charges filed against her.
“Lahat naman ng sinasabing bank account na yan, mga sinasabing transaksyon, hindi totoo eh. Ngayon, meron na kaming bala para ipamukha sa kanila na hindi totoo yung pinagsasabi nila,” he said.
Tacardon also questioned why the Prosecution team initially opposed the defense team’s request to subpoena the three bank accounts which were directly mentioned by their own witness in open court and during the 2016 House Justice Committee hearing.
“Nagtataka lang kami, in-oppose kami ng Prosecution. [E]bidensiya nila yun, dapat suportahan nila ng dokumento yung testimonya. Pero hindi nila ginagawa eh. Kuntento na sila sa sinabi ni Durano na may ganung bank account, na dun hinuhulog yung pera, without any corroboration or any support,” he said.
Tacardon later said after Llanes’s stipulation: “Kaya pala. Aminado pala sila na walang kinalaman si Sen. De Lima sa mga BDO accounts na yan na pawang mga inimbentong numero lamang ng mga testigo ng gobyerno”. He added: “Of course we knew that all along na walang ganyang mga bank accounts si Senator. Kasi kung meron, matagal na dapat nilang linabas yan.”
Despite the Prosecution’s stipulation that subpoenas for the BDO accounts can be dispensed with, De Lima’s counsels did not accede and reiterated the need for their issuance in order to establish the real identity of the owners of the questioned bank accounts and to finally eliminate any doubt as to their relevance to the cases at bar.
Known as a prisoner of conscience, De Lima has consistently and firmly maintained her innocence in the drug accusations, branding them as “orchestrated lies” and “pure fiction”, saying that no amount of lies and fabrication of evidence can change the truth that she is innocent. (30)