By Julius N. Leonen
Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino is ready to testify against detained Sen. Leila de Lima on the drug charges filed against her by the Department of Justice (DoJ).
Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta, who is serving as Marcelino’s legal counsel in his illegal drug cases, yesterday said the former head of the Special Enforcement Service Unit of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) can testify anytime if the government uses him as a witness.
Marcelino, who was arrested during a raid on a shabu warehouse in Manila in January 2016, has earlier agreed to testify on the congressional inquiry into the drug proliferation insidethe New Bililid Prisons and against de Lima but Congress has decided to forego with his testimony and decided to refer the matter to the House committee on public safety.
“He can testify anytime (against Senator de Lima). But I don’t know what he intends to testify. Let’s just wait for what will happen if the government will utilize him in the Bilibid drug case,” Acosta told a press briefing.
De Lima is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center as she is facing three separate drug trafficking cases before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC).
The cases for sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act) were assigned to RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero, Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz and Branch 206 Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon.
The first case in Branch 204 includes de Lima, her former lover and aide Ronnie Dayan and Former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos.
De Lima was joined by her nephew Jose Adrian Dera in the second case in Branch 205.
The third case in Branch 206 was against de Lima, Dera, Dayan, former BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu, his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, and de Lima’s former bodyguard Jonel Sanchez.
RA 9165 penalizes sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs.
The drug trafficking cases were filed by the DoJ against her in connection with her alleged involvement in the narcotics trade at the NBP during her tenure as Justice secretary under the Aquino administration.
Relatedly, Manila RTC Branch 49 yesterday ordered the release of Marcelino and his Chinese cohort Yan Yi Shou from detention after the DoJ dropped the drug charges against them.
“Thus, to conclude, Lt. Col. Marcelino and Yan Yi Shou have sufficiently proven that they were in performance of a lawful duty when they were chanced upon by the PNP (Philippine National Police) and PDEA joint team, negating the evidence of the complainant-appellees purportedly establishing they are probably involved in the manufacture of illegal drugs, conspiracy in the manufacture thereof, or illegal possession of the same,” the DoJ said in its latest resolution.
Yan was Marcelino’s informant during the 2016 drug bust.
The resolution reversed an earlier ruling issued by the DoJ on Sept. 15, 2016 which stated that the two suspects should be prosecuted for violation of Section 11 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act for possession of illegal drugs.
“The resolution dated September 15, 2016 of Assistant Prosecutor Alexander Q. Suarez, as approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon, is hereby reversed and set aside, and the resolution dated May 23, 2016 of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva is hereby affirmed,” the resolution signed by Justice Undersecretary Deo Marco stated.
“A show of liberality is within the competence of the secretary of Justice,” it added.
Aside from echoing the May 2016 resolution and the ruling of the Quezon City RTC, the DoJ took note of the January 2017 certification issued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through Brig. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, and the 2016 certification of then National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Virgilio Mendez. Both certifications recognized Marcelino’s active participation in anti-drug operations.
With this, Marcelino is set to be released from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Custodial Center in Camp Aguinaldo.
Acosta said they already filed omnibus manifestation with motion to join the prosecution’s motion to withdraw information and for the issuance of release order before the court. With PNA