De Lima: I have no millions

Senator Leila de LIma

MANILA – Sen. Leila de Lima on Friday denied owning fat bank accounts that could purportedly link her to drug lords, describing her accusers as a “mafia” that cavorts with convicted criminals to bring her down.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Thursday said he had received documents from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) showing bank transactions that could link De Lima to drug syndicates operating from New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

Aguirre said the transactions were worth P500 million to more than P1 billion but the bank accounts were not in De Lima’s name “because she uses people to collect on her behalf.”

Aguirre did not say exactly how much was transferred to De Lima’s purported bank accounts. That, he said, will be disclosed when the DOJ files charges against De Lima.
The purported AMLC documents are expected to be used as evidence against De Lima.

“I have no millions or billions in my bank accounts. And I have no dummy accounts. Any alleged accounts that would be linked to me and my alleged drug links can only be fictitious,” De Lima told the Inquirer.

“Secretary Aguirre and his operators are a mafia of lies and intrigues, who go to bed with criminal convicts just to get their perjured testimonies. In exchange, they give them immunity, immunity for drug lords and convicted criminals,” she said in a text message.

De Lima’s 2014 financial disclosure, the latest submitted during her time as a member of former President Benigno Aquino III’s Cabinet, showed that her net worth was P4.88 million, slightly higher than the P4.59 million she declared in 2013.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is accusing De Lima, an outspoken critic of President Duterte’s scorched-earth policy on illegal drugs, of profiting from narcotics operations run by convicted drug kingpins serving their sentences at NBP.

Several convicted drug lords are serving as the DOJ’s chief witnesses in a House of Representatives’ inquiry into the illegal drug trade at NBP.

Administration allies in the House launched the investigation earlier this week after De Lima opened an investigation in the Senate of alleged extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

Mr. Duterte’s allies in the Senate also stripped De Lima of her post as chair of the committee on justice and human rights, which is investigating the extrajudicial killings, on Monday after she presented a confessed hit man who linked Mr. Duterte to the killings of about 1,000 criminals and political opponents by a liquidation squad when the President was still the mayor of Davao City.

The President’s allies elected Sen. Richard Gordon to replace De Lima as head of the committee.

De Lima has repeatedly denied links to the drug trade at NBP, saying the allegations were part of efforts to discredit her after she launched the inquiry into the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects.

After winning the presidential election in May, Mr. Duterte warned Congress not to investigate a war on drugs that he planned to launch after taking office or there would be a clash between him and lawmakers.

During the campaign, Mr. Duterte promised to kill tens of thousands of criminals and wipe out illegal drugs in six months, a timetable that he revised earlier this week, extending the campaign by another six months.

More than 3,000 drug suspects have been killed by police and vigilantes since Mr. Duterte took office on June 30, alarming the United Nations, United States, European Union and international human rights groups.

The foul-mouthed Mr. Duterte cursed them all—calling the United Nations and the European Union “stupid” and US President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch”—before saying on Thursday that he would allow UN and EU investigations of his war on drugs provided their representatives answer his questions about Western countries’ track record in human rights.

As justice secretary in the Aquino administration, De Lima led raids on NBP several time, uncovering luxury villas and a shocking haul of contraband, including drugs, cash and gadgets belonging to high-profile inmates, several of whom testified against her at the House inquiry on Tuesday.

Presented by Aguirre, the convicts attested to De Lima’s involvement in the drug trade at NBP, saying another drug lord, Jaybee Sebastian, even imposed sale quotas to raise funds for her senatorial run in May.

De Lima, who has refused to participate in what she described as a “sham” inquiry in the administration-controlled House, said on Thursday that Sebastian was a government asset.

De Lima noted the irony: the Duterte administration, while fiercely fighting illegal drugs, is now relying on drug convicts to malign her, the same drug lords the administration had earlier claimed were behind a plot to assassinate Mr. Duterte.

“[T]he drug lords and criminals in Bilibid are [now] the allies of the President in his war on drugs. Aguirre doesn’t even notice how laughable their situation is now. The President has on his side the drug lords who, according to them (the administration), had chipped in to raise P1 billion to have him killed,” De Lima said.

In a news conference on Thursday, De Lima said some of the convicts could have been pressured to testify against her. She said she had learned that one NBP inmate was taken to the military intelligence service and was “psychologically tortured” to testify against her.

In a talk with reporters yesterday, Aguirre said De Lima’s reasoning was “out of line.”
“This reminds me of a quote [that] says, ‘Whom the gods destroy, they first make her mad,’” he said, messing up the Greek proverb, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.”

Aguirre said the National Bureau of Investigation would lead the next stage of investigation of De Lima, which would follow the money trail, as indicated in the AMLC report, to the bank accounts of several private corporations.

“The NBI will dig deep into the ownership of these corporations and establish their [links] to the drug lords,” he said.

Although there is no direct link to De Lima, Aguirre said the AMLC report covered the accounts of more than 10 of her associates, friends and staff members.

“For example, if we found P500 million [in] the account of Ronnie Dayan (De Lima’s former driver and bodyguard and alleged lover), we all know he has no income to justify having that much. So the conclusion of people, the judge, is that it came from his boss. It’s that simple,” he said.

Aguirre said he believed the DOJ had enough evidence from the convicts and other resource persons who testified in the House inquiry to file charges against De Lima, but the department had requested more documents from the AMLC to make an airtight case against the senator.

Aguirre said he would bring new witnesses from NBP to the House inquiry, which would resume next month. Sebastian has refused to testify against De Lima, but Aguirre said other people, including a retired state prosecutor, had volunteered to help the DOJ get evidence against her.