De Lima welcomes Ombudsman probe into Bilibid drugs allegations

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima welcomed the Office of the Ombudsman's investigation into her alleged links to the illegal drug trade, saying it was time for the "trusted and respected investigation office" to assert its jurisdiction on the case instead of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). 

In a statement issued Saturday, November 26, De Lima said the Ombudsman's decision to conduct a fact-finding investigation was "expected" because it is the constitutional mandate of the office tasked to probe public officials.

She said she welcomed the opportunity to clear her name, after President Rodrigo Duterte first accused her of facilitating the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when she was justice secretary.

"I welcome the Ombudsman investigation, both as a regular undertaking of said office and as an opportunity for me to clear my record of any allegations of wrongdoing," she said.

"After all, at present, the Ombudsman is the most trusted and respected investigation office of the government, after both the DOJ and the NBI have proven themselves to be nothing more than instruments of the present administration against vocal dissenters to the President, such as myself," she added.

De Lima also took the opportunity to slam the DOJ for its supposed lack of objectivity in handling the case.

"It is about time that the Ombudsman assert its primary jurisdiction over my case, and oust the DOJ of any authority to take over cases cognizable by the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan, especially in this instance where the DOJ has shown its lack of objectivity and interest in pursuing the truth," she said.

De Lima had criticized Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for allegedly fabricating evidence against her to tailor-fit the President's allegations that she is involved in illegal drugs. (READ: De Lima: Aguirre's evidence vs me 'fake' like his wig')

Aguirre had presented witnesses – mostly convicts granted immunity from suit for their testimonies – at the congressional inquiry into the Bilibid drug trade. Theey alleged that De Lima received money from drug lords through her former driver and boyfriend, Ronnie Dayan. (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)

The senator also praised Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, saying that Morales has "proven her competence, impartiality and capability to live up to our expectations insofar as making public officers accountable to the public is concerned." (READ: Fighting corruption, 'reason for my life' – Ombudsman)

The House of Representatives has conducted several hearings on the drug trade inside NBP, with drug lords implicating De Lima in the proliferation of drugs inside the prison. The senator denies these allegations.

Earlier this week, lawmakers questioned Dayan, who allegedly acted as her bagman for the drug transactions. De Lima blasted the House inquiry as a "spectacle" full of lies, as lawmakers probed into the former couple's relationship and posed questions with sexual undertones that had no bearing on the probe. – Rappler.com