MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila De Lima’s legal team is moving to implead inmate and prosecution witness Joel Capones as among the accused in the third drug case she is facing.
Lawyer Boni Tacardon, De Lima’s counsel, told reporters that they had filed a motion before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 265 to include Capones in the case as he had admitted that he participated in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.
“We filed a motion to include him (Capones), because if the 'war on drugs' of the government is genuine, then all of those involved in drugs should face cases. Why is it that Sen. De Lima is said to be the only one involved in drug trade inside Bilibid?” Tacardon told reporters after the hearing on Tuesday.
The conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading pending before the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 is the third case against De Lima. She has since been acquitted in one, while trial continues in a second case pending before Branch 205.
Tacardon said the court filing is a separate action from their submission of letter to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday.
De Lima urged Guevarra to charge Capones and his 13 "mayores" or lieutenants in the Sigue Sigue Sputnik gang who had admitted to the court that they committed illegal drug trading within Bilibid from January to October 2014.
“The inaction of the [DOJ] in holding Mr. Capones to account for his self-confessed criminal acts, despite knowledge of his culpability, is a serious dereliction of duty and puts in question the seriousness of Duterte administration’s resolve in fighting crime and illegal drugs,” she said.
Guevarra confirmed the receipt of De Lima’s letter and said he will take the issue raised “under advisement.”
De Lima has also written to the Parole and Probation Administration, urging its board to consider a negative evaluation of Capones’s application for parole or clemency, if any.
“Surely, a convicted murderer who continued to commit the heinous crime of illegal drug trading inside the National Penitentiary evince an attitude in total contrast to that of remorse,” De Lima said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Capones took the witness stand before Branch 256.
Provincial prosecutor Ramoncito Ocampo said the inmate gave a “very clear” testimony that he remitted money to convict Jaybee Sebastian, who has since died, and that he saw the latter give money to Jad Dera, said to be the senator’s nephew but who later claimed to be a police asset instead.
“He delivered first the money to Jaybee Sebastian, P1.4 million, and then the good senator, [who was] then secretary. Jaybee Sebastian then gave money to Secretary De Lima. It was part of the testimony, according to the witness, they were celebrating the anniversary of Sigue Sigue commando gang,” he added.
The prosecutor however confirmed that Capones saw Sebastian show it to De Lima but “of course he does not know whether the secretary took it after he left.”
Ocampo also said Capones was “forced” to take part in drug trading. “He agreed, for survival, because it would have been difficult to not [work] with Sebastian when you are incarcerated inside the NBP,” the prosecutor added in a mix of English and Filipino.
The prosecutor said the delivery of money happened on March 5, 2014, although Tacardon said Capones said it happened on March 5, 2015.
ABS-CBN News earlier reported that Sebastian, in his July 2020 affidavit, confessed that he facilitated the delivery of P5 million between De Lima and inmate Peter Co in November and another P5 million in December 2012.
However, in his October 2016 affidavit, Sebastian only mentioned giving De Lima P2 million in a paper bag in 2015, and another P8 million, through the senator’s then-aide Joenel Sanchez, the report added.
The report also said the prosecution had introduced to the court Sebastian’s affidavits. The inmate died in July due to COVID-19.
Asked if it is possible that the transaction with Capones was not included in Sebastian’s affidavit, Ocampo said: “Maybe because in all kinds of investigations, sometimes the person being investigated only answers or focuses on the topic that is subject of the inquiry.”
De Lima’s lawyer, Tacardon, meanwhile said Capones had “selective” memory during their cross-examination and said he could not remember other circumstances that could destroy his credibility.
The cross-examination of Capones, which ran for two hours on Wednesday, will continue on April 16. — Kristine Joy Patag