Philippine Daily Inquirer

De Lima called ‘mother of all drug lords’

- By Marlon Ramos and Robert Dejon @Team_Inquirer

Sen. Leila de Lima has been accused of receiving P8 million in payoffs from a drug syndicate in the Visayas and called “the mother of all drug lords” in two new charges filed against her.

In a criminal complaint they filed Thursday at the Department of Justice, former National Bureau of Investigat­ion deputy directors Ruel Lasala and Reynaldo Esmeralda charged De Lima and former NBI officer in charge Rafael Ragos with drug traffickin­g in New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“De Lima, acting as the mother of all drug lords and through the use of her authority, was able to appoint and designate men inside the (NBP) in order to ensure the perpetuati­on of illegal drug trade,” the former NBI officials said in their 20-page complaint-affidavit.

Ragos testified at the House committee on justice hearing that he personally delivered millions of pesos in protection money from the drug lords serving time at NBP to De Lima’s house in Parañaque City.

A separate complaint filed Wednesday by the police chief of Albuera, Leyte province, accused De Lima of receiving at least P8 million in payoffs before the May elections from the biggest drug syndicate in Eastern Visayas.

The charges against De Lima followed a similar complaint filed Tuesday against her by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

De Lima has denied any links to the drug trade, saying she was being pilloried for raising the issue of extrajudic­ial killings against President Duterte.

De Lima, then justice secretary, dismissed Lasala and Esmeralda in March 2014 for their supposed close ties with suspected P10-billion pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.

Esmeralda said their complaint had nothing to do with their dismissal from the NBI.

‘Had info since 2012’

“As early as 2012, we already had the informatio­n (regarding De Lima’s involvemen­t in the drug trade),” Esmeralda said. “That’s precisely why we were removed from the NBI. Weknew of the deliveries of money to her house in Parañaque. But it was confirmed only this September (during the House hearing).”

He said it was “useless” then to squeal on their former boss “because she was very powerful at the time.”

Lasala said he was thankful to De Lima for removing them from their posts “because if she did not relieve us, we could have been included in this case.”

In their complaint prepared by lawyer Eduardo Bringas, the former NBI officials said the testimonie­s of NBI agent Jovencio Ablen Jr. and convict Jojo Baligad showed that De Lima and Ragos had conspired to engage in trading and traffickin­g illegal drugs inside NBP in violation of the Comprehens­ive Dangerous Drugs Act.

“Like hungry wolves, they took advantage of their power, influence and resources,” they said in their complaint.

In his complaint, the Albuera police chief said De Lima received payoffs from Kerwin Espinosa, allegedly the head of the biggest drug syndicate in Eastern Visayas and son of Albuera Mayor Ronaldo Espinosa. The mayor has been arrested on charges of possession of illegal drugs and unlicensed firearms while his son is at large.

Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido filed his complaint at the office of the Ombudsman in Tacloban, Leyte. Also charged with De Lima was village councilman Nelson Pepito Jr., who allegedly transporte­d drugs for the syndicate.

Espenido said the charges against De Lima and Pepito were backed by testimonie­s from three alleged members of Kerwin’s syndicate.

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