The Department of Justice on Sunday said the dismissal by the Office of the Ombudsman of the direct and indirect bribery charges against former Senator Leila De Lima cannot be used as basis for her release from detention over the non-bailable illegal drugs cases filed against her.
“The elements of bribery are different from those of illegal drugs trading,” DOJ spokesman Jose Dominic Clavano said in a text message to reporters.
“The pieces of evidence are different to probe bribery and drug trade,” he added.
Clavano’s comment came after the Gabriela party-list called for the release of De Lima on the basis of the Ombudsman’s ruling.
The Ombudsman earlier dismissed the bribery raps against De Lima and her former aide, Ronnie Dayan, over the alleged attempt to extort P8 million from self-confessed drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa in exchange for his protection.
In dismissing the complaint, the Ombudsman cited the “glaring inconsistencies” in the testimonies of Espinosa and government witness Marcelo Adorco.
In an earlier statement, the DOJ expressed confidence that its 2017 resolution on the filing of illegal drug charges against De Lima was not in conflict with the recent ruling of the Ombudsman.
“The Department would like to reiterate and point out that we are consistent with the recent resolution of the Ombudsman,” the DOJ said.
In 2017, the DOJ filed drug charges before the Muntinlupa City regional trial court after finding probable cause to indict De Lima on her alleged involvement in the proliferation of the illegal drugs trade at the New Bilibid Prison.
“In the DOJ Resolution, the Panel did not consider the testimony of Kerwin Espinosa as there was no corroborating evidence to support his allegation that he delivered P8 million to the former Senator for future protection,” the DOJ said.
“Therefore, it was clear to the DOJ Panel of Prosecutors that Espinosa’s confession on the allegation of payment for protection was not convincing,” it said.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the court should be allowed to decide on the illegal drugs charges filed against De Lima.
De Lima has been detained at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police since 2017.