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Political persecution?

Senator Leila de Lima’s camp cried political persecution when she was arrested and detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame last week.

She claimed that being a vocal critic of President Duterte and his war on illegal drugs was the reason why a case was filed against her.

Her supporters said there was no concrete evidence to pin her down and that the case should have been filed at the Sandiganbayan, not the Regional Trial Court (RTC), since the supposed wrongdoings happened when she was head of the Department of Justice.

However, these allegations were slammed by lawyers Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala, the two former deputy directors of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) who were recommended for dismissal by De Lima when she was still Justice chief.

De Lima accused the two of tipping off pork barrel scam suspect Janet Lim Napoles and ordered them sacked in 2014.
Firing Line had the chance to talk to Esmeralda, who condemned the issue raised by De Lima against them as concocted. It was supposedly the Justice chief’s desperate move to prevent them from closing in on their investigations linking her to illegal drugs.

Part of their probe revealed that money in the amount of millions of pesos was first delivered to De Lima’s house during the first quarter of 2013.

Their intense probe was backed by necessary documentation, along with two important witnesses who were also part of the delivery. Esmeralda said he and Lasala filed a case against De Lima for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act in October of last year.

“It’s a good thing that the current administration under President Duterte is quite serious in its campaign against corruption and illegal drugs,” Esmeralda pointed out.

And on the issue that the case should fall under Sandiganbayan, Esmeralda clarified that if it was a violation of dangerous drugs or rape, “the law says that even ranking officials will be tried by the RTC. Graft and corruption or malversation would fall under the Sandiganbayan.”

Since they are all lawyers, Esmeralda is challenging the allies of De Lima in the Senate to prove who among them is correct in their interpretation of the law.

Furthermore, Esmeralda said De Lima was given ample time to answer the charges against her but she declined to appear in all the court hearings.

“And now she cries political persecution?” asked Esmeralda.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)

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