DOJ summons De Lima to answer drug charges

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, November 21, issued subpoenas to Senator Leila de Lima and 2 others named in a drug complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and 3 other groups with the justice department.

“The DOJ Process Server will now serve the suboena to Senator De Lima including her two staff,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said during a  press conference.

Aguirre was referring to 2 former prisons officials who had served under De Lima when she was justice secretary. They are former Bureau of Corrections Chair Rainier G. Cruz and former New Bilibid Prison Superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf Jr. 

The complaints against De Lima were filed by the NBI, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), two former NBI officials, and convict Jaybee Sebastian, who testified against the senator and other former prisons officials during a congressional probe into the alleged illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

The 3 are accused of violating the  Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; and violating the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.

“You are hereby warned that failure on your part to comply with the subpoena shall be considered as a waiver of your right to be furnished copies of the complaint, supporting affidavits and other documents as well as to examine all other evidence submitted by the complainant,” the DOJ order said.

Asked to comment, De Lima said: "My legal team will handle that."

A statement issued later by her office said it has received 4 subpoena orders “to obtain copies of the complaint and other supporting evidence” filed by 4 groups, including the NBI and the VACC. “We take note that the subpoena orders were not to submit counter-affidavits yet but simply to obtain, personally or through a representative, copies of these complaints and other supporting affidavits and evidence on Dec. 2, 1 pm at the Department of Justice’s Executive Lounge.” 

The DOJ has created a panel to investigate De Lima, Cruz and Schwarzkopf. The panel is composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong as chairman with Senior Assistant City Prosecutors Alexander Ramos, Leila Llanes, Evangeline Viudez-Canobas and Assistant State Prosecutor Editha Fernandez as members.  

The panel’s preliminary investigation is scheduled next week, December 2.

The opposition senator has repeatedly branded the probe as government's way of harassing her, a longtime critic of President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: De Lima files petition vs Duterte at Supreme Court– Rappler.com