De Lima camp sees 'breakthrough' in drug cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 18) — Proving Senator Leila de Lima guilty of drug charges is going to be even more difficult for the Justice Department, according to the detained senator's camp.

Lawyer Boni Tacardon made this statement Friday after state prosecutors identified shabu as the drugs mentioned in the charge sheet against De Lima.

This is the first time prosecutors mentioned this detail, Tacardon said, adding that they will now have to back it up with physical evidence.

"This is very important because they have to prove the existence of the drugs," Tacardon said, referring to the development as a "breakthrough."

It has been De Lima's long standing challenge to the prosecution to present physical evidence against her rather than just testimonies.

De lima is facing charges of conspiracy to trade illegal drugs before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branches 205 and 206 over her alleged involvement in the proliferation of drugs at the New Bilibid Prison when she was head of the Department of Justice (DOJ) from 2010 to 2015.

State prosecutors, however, said there is no need to point out what particular drug was traded because the main offense is conspiracy.

While shabu was not specifically cited in the charge sheet, the prosecution said it was clear in witness testimonies that this was the particular drug traded inside NBP.

"There is no need to mention shabu because what we are prosecuting here is a case of conspiracy or attempt to commit drug trading," Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ramoncito Ocampo said.

De Lima's arraignment, where she was supposed to plead guilty or not guilty to her charges, was deferred anew on Friday due to her pending motions questioning amendments in the allegations against her - from illegal drug trading to conspiracy to trade illegal drugs.

De Lima's motion for reconsideration against the amended information were denied so her lawyers filed a motion to quash which caused the resetting of her arraignment.

The Justice Department said Jaybee Sebastian, one of the high-profile inmates who testified against de Lima during hearings at the House Committee on Justice, will plead guilty to the drug charge against him.

Sebastian admitted he gave De Lima  – whom he called a "protector" – a total of P10 million worth of drug money from 2014 to 2015.

He is De Lima's only remaining co-accused after other New Bilibid Prison inmates turned state witness and were cleared by the Justice Department.