The issues against three staunch allies of ex-President Benigno Aquino III in the Liberal Party are getting more controversial as the days pass.
First on the list is Senator Leila De Lima. The last placer among the winning senatorial candidates in the May 2016 polls, De Lima was the Secretary of Justice under the Aquino administration. During De Lima’s incumbency as justice secretary, the news media revealed that drug lords detained at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa were being given more than special treatment – air-conditioned quarters, and access to, among others, assistants, catered food, modern appliances, mobile phones, computers, firearms, cash, and drug paraphernalia. Considering the crowded conditions in the national penitentiary, it was impossible for the convicts to enjoy a privileged life in prison without the knowledge and consent of then-Justice Secretary De Lima, who exercised supervision over the country’s prisons.
President Rodrigo Duterte recently accused De Lima of receiving millions of pesos in bribe money from the drug lords in the national penitentiary, and that her driver was her collection agent. If this is true, then that may be the reason why the drug lords detained in Muntinlupa were enjoying luxurious lifestyles.
After Duterte also announced that De Lima and her driver are lovers, the news media reported that De Lima allegedly gifted her driver with a large house in Pangasinan.
Although De Lima denied the accusations against her, Duterte maintained his stand. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is conducting an investigation on her alleged role in the drug mess.
Last week, a photograph of De Lima with suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, allegedly taken in Baguio City last March, was published in a newspaper. De Lima denied knowing Espinosa and his family, and said that the photograph was taken when she was campaigning for the Senate. She insisted that being a candidate, she could not turn down requests from strangers, Espinosa included, that she pose with them in a photograph.
Recall that a couple of years ago, a photograph of a justice of the Sandiganbayan posing with Janet Lim-Napoles, who is currently facing graft raps relating to the misuse of congressional “pork barrel” funds, made it to the news. That photograph somehow helped in the ouster of the justice.
A few days ago, the DoJ panel investigating the alleged involvement of De Lima in the drug trade announced that millions of pesos had been deposited, over a period of two months, to the bank account of one of De Lima’s coterminus assistants when she was justice secretary. The panel said that it is unusual for a clerk to amass so much money in so short a period. De Lima said the panel’s allegation is false.
Meanwhile, De Lima is presiding over a Senate investigation on what she considers extra-judicial killings purportedly undertaken by the Philippine National Police on instructions supposedly given by the President in relation to the ongoing government drive against drug abuse. Despite De Lima’s repeated and protracted questioning, however, the top brass of the PNP denied any role in any wrongdoing. For a senator who refuses to be interpellated by her colleagues in the Senate, De Lima sure asked a lot of questions.
Now that the DoJ is in the mood for investigating the ex-justice secretary, perhaps the investigating panel should also inquire about other mysterious incidents which took place in the DoJ during De Lima’s watch. The Commission on Audit disclosed that DoJ funds earmarked for the department’s witness protection program had been misused. Another mystery is De Lima’s refusal to reveal what concessions the DoJ gave to the Iglesia Ni Cristo which prompted the religious sect to end their protest rally against her at the Edsa-Shaw Boulevard intersection last year.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption led by its chairman, Dante Jimenez, filed criminal charges against Quezon City Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista and his younger brother, QC Councilor Hero Bautista, with the Office of the Ombudsman last week. Both politicians were accused of dereliction of duty—the mayor, for his failure to curb the drug menace in the city, and the councilor, for his admission of drug use. They were also accused of violating the Administrative Code, particularly for neglect of duty, misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Mayor Bautista should resign from office for tolerating his brother’s drug use. Since a drug addict always has physical manifestations of substance abuse, and because the Bautista brothers work in the same city hall, it was impossible for Mayor Bistek not to notice that Councilor Hero is an addict. Bistek should also resign for putting his city in bad light for this drug mess.
Hero Bautista alleges that he is a victim of the drug menace. What hogwash! At 48, he is old enough to know that drug use is conduct inimical to the public interest.
City officials said that Councilor Bautista will go on an indefinite leave from office for rehabilitation. Huh? Why should a drug dependent make public office wait until he is rehabilitated? Public office is a public trust, and Hero violated public trust by his use of narcotics. This being so, he should resign!
Hero is chairman of the city council’s committee on infrastructure. That’s a powerful posting because no construction project in the city may be undertaken without the nod of that committee. Infrastructure projects cost millions of pesos of taxpayers’ money. Is that why Hero does not want to resign?
Quezon City’s reputation has been tarnished by several city councilors currently facing graft raps in the Sandiganbayan for using public funds to pay the salaries of ghost employees. This drug mess involving the Bautista brothers is another blemish to the city’s reputation. President Manuel L. Quezon must be turning in his grave.
The Bautista brothers should resign immediately.