By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has questioned whether the Prosecution team committed subornation of perjury or dereliction of duty when they allowed convicted murderer Joel Capones to be presented in court as their witness against her.
In a Manifestation before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 256 dated Feb. 24, De Lima, through her lawyers, stressed that it is important to know whether or not the Prosecution believes their own witness.
“If the Prosecution does not believe that Joel Capones was telling the truth, and yet they presented him as a witness before the Court, then the Prosecution would have committed the offense of subornation of perjury or, at the very least, violated their lawyer’s oath,” De Lima said.
“On the other hand, if the Prosecution does believe that Capones committed illegal drug trading, then they are currently in the act of committing the criminal offense of dereliction of duty, punishable under Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code [RPC],” she added.
Article 208 of the RPC punishes “any … officer of the law, who, in dereliction of the duties of his office shall maliciously refrain from instituting prosecution for the punishment of violators of the law, or shall tolerate the commission of offenses.”
In his testimony before the court, Capones confessed that he committed illegal drug trading within the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) together with his 13 mayores in the Sigue Sigue Sputnik Gang from January to October 2014. Yet, Capones was not included as an accused in the said case or any drug case for that matter.
During the hearing held last Feb. 23, Provincial Prosecutor Ramoncito Bienvenido Ocampo, Jr. laughingly commented that he does not understand why De Lima’s Defense Counsel was still conducting cross-examination if they believed the testimony of Capones admitting to his involvement in the illegal drug trade.
De Lima said her counsel has the right to conduct cross-examination “to show the falsity, incredibility, and extreme selectiveness of Joel Capones’s memory.”
“It is one thing for Joel Capones to make admissions against his own interest under oath and in open court; and quite another for him to implicate other persons, including herein Accused De Lima,” she said.
“In fact, through cross-examination, not only were gaping holes in his memory revealed, so is the existence of another sworn statement that the Prosecution withheld from the Court and from the Defense, giving them no opportunity to inspect the same for inconsistencies and other possible exculpatory evidence,” she added.
If the Prosecution had any doubts as to the truthfulness of Capones’ claims, De Lima said it was their duty to probe its truth before ever presenting him before the court.
“If the Prosecution is to be believed, for more than four (4) years, they were aware that Joel Capones confessed under oath to having engaged in illegal drug trading,” she said.
“And yet, to this date, none of them has taken any appropriate action to prosecute the commission of a crime that was brought to their attention at least as far back as October 2016,” she added.
If the Prosecution insists on continuing to take irreconcilable positions, to the point that they are knowingly allowing a self-confessed drug lord to go unpunished, De Lima stressed that “the Honorable Court is free to draw therefrom the conclusion that Joel Capones’s testimony is a bargained-for-testimony.”
In example, De Lima said it is possible that Capones “gave his testimony in exchange for assurances that he will not be prosecuted and will not suffer any adverse consequences despite his confession under oath and in open court.”
Earlier, De Lima likened Capones to Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Officer-In-Charge Rafael Ragos, former National Bureau of Investigation agent Jovencio Ablen Jr., and Bilibid inmate Engelberto Durano whom she firmly asserts are all “perjured witnesses”, saying that Capones’ story about her alleged receipt of drug money from Jaybee Sebastian is a blatant lie.
In a subsequent tweet, De Lima said: “For me, what is worse than the lies of witnesses under oath is subornation of perjury by prosecutors.”
In a personal letter to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra dated Feb. 22, the lady Senator from Bicol urged him to use all the powers available under his office to prosecute anyone, without fear or favor, who has been involved in illegal drug trading in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), such as Capones.
De Lima, the most prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, recently marked her fourth year in unjust detention last Feb. 24. She was recently acquitted in one of the trumped-up drug charges against her. She has consistently and firmly maintained her innocence of all these charges. (AI/MTVN)