MANILA, Philippines – How was a staff member of Sen. Leila de Lima when she was justice secretary able to amass P24 million in just two months?
This is one of the puzzles that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is resolving in its ongoing fact-finding investigation on the alleged involvement of De Lima in narcotics operations of convicts in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Edna “Bogs” Obuyes, one of two clerks at the office of the DOJ chief who was interrogated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), appeared to have become an instant millionaire in 2014. Obuyes was not a regular DOJ employee.
A bank document obtained by The STAR from a DOJ source showed that a total of P24 million in cash was deposited in a bank account under the name of Bogs C. Obuyes in March and April 2014.
Cash deposit slips showed that the alleged deposits were made on March 7, 2014 (P4.8 million), March 21, 2014 (P7.2 million), April 4, 2014 (P2.6 million), April 18, 2014 (P4.8 million) and April 24, 2014 (P4.6 million).
Bank representatives refused to comment, citing confidentiality of accounts under the bank secrecy law.
Probers said the bank records being subjected to verification were “shocking” since Obuyes was a clerk “whose salary could not have reached such enormous amounts.”
Obuyes is no longer with the DOJ as she was a contractual employee whose contract had expired.
It was earlier reported that Obuyes and another clerk, Jong Caranto, had prepared affidavits claiming that they were told by De Lima to deposit millions of pesos to a bank account that wasn’t under her name.
The STAR reported yesterday that Obuyes and Caranto went to the National Bureau of Investigation for the probe. They have undergone lie detector tests.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier hinted that probers have traced several bank accounts where alleged drug money went, but quickly clarified that these were not under the name of De Lima.
Aguirre has also confirmed that six witnesses from the NBP have surfaced to pin down De Lima on possible drug and graft charges.
While he did not name the supposed witnesses, the DOJ chief hinted that they include “NBP guards and inmates” who have executed affidavits.
The witnesses supposedly implicated the senator in narcotics operations of convicted drug lords while inside the penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.
President Duterte has repeatedly accused De Lima of benefiting from drug money from drug lords in the NBP.
Also tagged by the Chief Executive were De Lima’s reported aide-lover Ronnie Dayan, former undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, former Pangasinan governor and now 5th district Rep. Amado Espino Jr., Pangasinan provincial administrator Raffy Baraan and former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu.
Apart from the narcotics trade in the NBP, the DOJ is also set to look into the involvement of some 30 officials tagged by Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa in the illegal drug trade in the Visayas.
Aguirre on Tuesday told The STAR that Espinosa could also be placed under witness protection of the government after the local official submitted to authorities an affidavit naming several officials – including a senator and several congressmen and police officials – who supposedly protected and benefited from the narcotics operations of his son Kerwin.
The mayor’s affidavit submitted to the local police reportedly included a senator who used to be DOJ secretary.
While Espinosa did not make public the names, De Lima quickly issued another denial after a photo of her and Kerwin came out in the media. De Lima has persistently denied the charges, saying she is being targeted by Duterte supposedly in retaliation for her previous active pursuit of his alleged involvement in the killings of the dreaded Davao death squad.
She also claimed that evidence was being manufactured to pin her down.