DOJ says lawyers for De Lima fail to break witness

The camp of detained Senator Leila De Lima failed to destroy the probative value of the testimony of prosecution witness Joel Capones, government prosecutors said Tuesday.

This was after Capones told the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court that he saw jailed drug lord Jaybee Sebastian hand over P1.4 million in drug money to then-Justice Secretary at the latter’s “Bahay na Bato” inside New Bilibid Prison sometime in March 2014.

This was despite De Lima’s lawyers subjecting Capones to a grueling two-hour cross-examination during Tuesday’s hearing presided over by Judge Romeo S. Buenaventura of RTC, Branch 256, said the Department of Justice prosecution panel led by Provincial Prosecution Ramoncito Bienvenido Ocampo Jr.

De Lima’s lawyers sought to destroy Capones’ testimony and credibility as a state witness against the lady senator, who has been accused of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading inside the NBP when she was still secretary of the Department of Justice.

The Justice Secretary has administrative supervision over the Bureau of Corrections.

De Lima and co-accused Ronnie Dayan and Jad de Vera were charged with conspiring and confederating with each other to commit illegal drugs trading, particularly violation of Section 26 (b) in relation to Section 5, Section 3 (jj), and Section 28 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

In an interview after the hearing, Ocampo Jr. stressed that Capones’ testimony remains solid despite efforts by De Lima’s lawyers to crack it during their cross examination of the witness.

Ocampo said as far as the prosecution is concerned, Capones’ testimony was very clear and categorical that sometime in March 5, 2014, he saw alleged drug lord Sebastian hand over to De Lima P1.4 million in drug money.

“In his testimony, (Capones) delivered first the money to Jaybee Sebastian — the P1.4 million, and when the senator then Secretary of Justice arrived, Jaybee Sebastian handed the money to Sec. De Lima. That is part of the testimony,” Ocampo told reporters.

“His testimony is very clear as far as we are concerned. We leave it to the court for its appreciation of our evidence as far as the gist of the testimony of Joel Capones,” he said.

During the hearing last week before Presiding Judge Buenaventura at the Muntinlupa City RTC, Capones testified that on December 2013, fellow NBP inmate Sebastian asked him to engage in illegal drug trading inside and out of the NBP supposedly to raise funds to support the senatorial bid of De Lima, who was then DOJ Secretary.

The witness admitted that he indeed transacted illegal drugs or shabu to heed the directive of Sebastian because he was convinced and impressed with the latter’s apparent strong influence with the previous administration, particularly with De Lima.

Capones has reaffirmed before the court the contents of his three-page sworn affidavit, wherein he alleged that one time in 2014, Sebastian summoned him to his booth to bring in the money that the latter intended to give to De Lima.

“Wala na po ako magawa kundi sundin ang sinabi ni Jaybee na magbenta ng droga sa Bilibid dahil maimpluwensya po sya sa NBP,” Capones told the court.

Capones claimed that on March 2014, during the anniversary of the Commando Sigue-Sigue organization, he delivered the amount of P1.4 million to Sebastian as quota payment of the shabu drugs that he sold.

The witness said the delivery was at Sebastian’s “bahay na bato” inside the NBP.

During the delivery, he saw Leila De Lima went to the same place to meet with Sebastian.

Capones recalled that he personally witnessed Sebastian hand over to De Lima the P1.4 million that he gave to the alleged drug lord and heard him saying “Ma’am, eto na po ang pera.”

The prosecution witness confirmed that De Lima has the imprimatur of the drug dealings inside and outside of the Bureau of Corrections facility.

Sebastian already pleaded guilty to the charge of illegal drug trading inside the NBP.

In his July 2020 affidavit, Sebastian confessed that he facilitated the delivery of P5 million between convicted drug lord Peter Co and De Lima through then-Bureau of Corrections Officer in Charge Rafael Ragos on two occasions, in November and December 2012.

Sebastian also admitted in his July 2020 affidavit that De Lima’s aide Joenel Sanchez asked him to help De Lima raise funds for her candidacy in the 2013 senatorial elections, upon the instructions of Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s former bodyguard.

Before he was formally introduced as a witness against De Lima, Sebastian died on July 18, 2020 reportedly due to COVID-19.

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