MANILA (Updated) -- The Department of Justice (DOJ) has found probable cause to charge Senator Leila de Lima and seven others before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court.
De Lima was charged Friday with three cases for violation of the Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 in connection with her alleged involvement in the drug trading in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
The cases are for De Lima's violation of Section 5 (sale and trading dispensation, delivery of dangerous drugs) in relation to Section 3, Section 26 and Section 28 (criminal liability of government officials) of the dangerous drugs act.
De Lima's co-accused in all three cases are former Bureau of Corrections Officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos, De Lima's former aide Ronnie Dayan, Jose Adrian Dera, former DOJ Undersecretary Jesus Franklin Bucayu, Colonel Wilfredo Eli, NBP inmate Jaybee Sebastian, and Joenel Sanchez.
In a resolution dated February 14, the DOJ dismissed the complaints filed against NBP high profile inmates Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad and Peter Co. They will serve be used as prosecution witnesses, according to the resolution.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, meantime, ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the alleged kidnapping of Peter Co's niece, Sally, and her husband by Jad Dera in March 2016.
Aguirre also directed the NBI to probe the alleged illegal drug offenses committed by Eastern Visayas drug trader Kerwin Espinosa.
The complaints against Espinosa Fransisco Baraan III were dismissed for lack of basis.
Last Tuesday, De Lima disclosed that information reached her office that she will be arrested anytime soon because of allegations linking her to the proliferation of drugs inside the national penitentiary.
In a statement, De Lima said her lawyers will be filing the corresponding motions as soon as the cases are raffled to a specific court branch.
"I have long prepared myself to be the first political prisoner under this regime, because the criminal charges and prosecution are nothing less than a politically motivated act by the Duterte regime to clamp down on any vocal opposition against its support for a policy of EJK (extrajudicial killing) in dealing with suspected criminals," she said.
She maintained that her looming imprisonment is based on "false charges".
She then took a swipe at the Duterte administration's concept of change "where right is turned to wrong, and wrong is made right."
"If the loss of my freedom is the price I have to pay for standing up against the butchery of the Duterte regime, then it is a price I am willing to pay," the senator said.
The filing of information came after the Court of Appeals junked De Lima's bid for a temporary restraining order seeking to stop the DOJ from rendering its decision on her cases.
De Lima is accused of benefiting in the illegal drug trading in the state penitentiary during her tenure as then Justice Secretary.
Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, for his part, said De Lima should welcome the filing of three criminal complaints against her.
Panelo said De Lima would now have the chance to defend herself over allegations that she allowed the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the national penitentiary when she was the former Justice Secretary.
"You should be happy about that because the case will push through. She will have the opportunity to defend herself. She should welcome [the filing of cases as] it will be an opportunity to defend herself," Panelo said in a chance interview.
President Rodrigo Duterte has tagged De Lima as the highest government official who benefitted from the illicit drug sale inside the NBP.
De Lima had claimed the looming arrest was part of Duterte's plan to make her experience the same fate former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo had suffered.
Arroyo was jailed while De Lima was still the head of the DOJ but had been freed when Duterte assumed the presidency.
Asked what the administration's end goal in implicating De Lima in narcotics trade, Panelo said, "If it is proven that she is involved in drugs, she will be put in jail. She will suffer the same fate Arroyo had faced during her stint." (SunStar Philippines)