By Daniel Llanto

The testimony by key Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) officers at the court hearing of detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima that they were not aware of De Lima’s involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary prompted the Senate minority bloc to renew their call for her immediate release, saying the supposedly concocted case against De Lima was “unraveling.”

In a joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan said de Lima now deserves to be freed from her detention.

Lawyer Boni Tacardon, De Lima’s legal counsel, said officials from AMLC and PDEA testified last week that Sen. Leila de Lima was not involved in any anomalous transactions linking her to the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

In a statement, Tacardon named the officials as AMLC Financial Investigator Artemio Baculi Jr. and PDEA Digital Forensic Examiner Krystal Caseñas who both affirmed during a hearing of the case “that they found no suspicious transactions between De Lima and drug convicts.”

The hearing was held at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 last October 23 and was attended by De Lima, through teleconference.  She has been detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City since February 2017 on what she claimed to be politically motivated charges.

“Earlier, Mr. Artemio Baculi of AMLC presented Criminal Case 165 and he said that even though he heard Sen. De Lima’s name in the conversations, he never investigated the Senator,” Tacardon was quoted by De Lima’s office.

According to Tacardon, the AMLC investigator also testified that there was no transaction between inmate Peter Co, Ronnie Dayan — who are co-accused in the case— and De Lima.

“It may be recalled that Baculi first appeared before Branch 205 last September 25 wherein he admitted that his investigation of people suspected to have been involved in the Bilibid drug trade showed that no money flowed from the bank accounts which were the subject of his investigation to either De Lima or her co-accused in Criminal Case No. 17-166, Jose Adrian Dera,” De Lima’s office said.

The money raised from De Lima’s involvement in the illegal drug trade money was supposedly meant to fund the senatorial campaign of De Lima who was then justice secretary.  However, Tarcadon said that a PDEA official revealed “very crucial information” on this allegation during the hearing.

“In Criminal Case No. 166, the prosecution presented Ms. Crystal Caseñas. What she said earlier is very important, because she admitted during our questioning, that in the cellphone extraction report released by the PDEA through Caseñas, there was no mention (of any drug-related transactions) between Jad Dera … and Sen. De Lima,” Tacardon explained.

Tacardon added that, in the drug lords’ cellphones held by PDEA, there was no mention of De Lima being part of a drug transaction, according to Caseñas.

“Caseñas’ affidavit indicating that the cellphones she received from the Bureau of Corrections were Peter Co’s property, meanwhile, was stricken off by the Court, as this was only her opinion,” De Lima’s office said. Tacardon also pointed out that Caseñas may have violated the Cybercrime Law when she examined Co’s phones without proper warrant. Jad Dera and Peter Co are both convicted drug kingpins who implicated De Lima.

“De Lima recently filed two separate and distinct Motions for Bail for both Conspiracy to Commit Illegal Drug Trading cases, asserting that the Prosecution’s evidence against her is not strong, and in fact confirmatory of her innocence of the charges. As of this writing, Judge Liezel Aquiatan has yet to rule on both Motions,” her office said.

The Senate minority bloc said the recent testimonies of the financial investigator of AMLC and the digital forensic examiner of PDEA are crucial to the case and should be given weight as these affirm that Sen. De Lima did not conduct suspicious transactions that would link her to illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.