No political vendetta in probe vs. Cebu City mayor: Aguirre

MANILA -- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday clarified that there is no political vendetta behind the ongoing probe by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the alleged drug links of Cebu City Mayor Tomas OsmeAa.

Aguirre was reacting to Vice President Leni Robredo's statement asking him not to use the Department of Justice (DOJ) in his political vendetta against OsmeAa.

What political vendetta is she talking about? Is it her position that we should not pursue any criminal prosecution for violation of the comprehensive drugs law because the culprit belongs to the opposition? he said.

This is the same position they have respecting the de Lima cases -- that no case should be filed against OsmeAa because he is (an) anti-Duterte advocate? he said, referring to Senator Leila de Lima, one of President Rodrigo R. Duterte's critics, who has been in detention since February 2017 due to three drug cases filed against her.

Aguirre said the NBI probe on OsmeAa was based on the Nov. 23, 2016 sworn affidavit of Reynaldo Diaz, also known as "Jumbo", said to be the bagman and cousin of slain drug lord Jeffrey Diaz, alias "Jaguar".

Jumbo testified that "Mayor Tomas OsmeAa received payola from Jaguar amounting of PHP2 million for hospitalization expenses in 2013 and PHP5 million during the 2016 elections.

Citing the affidavit, Aguirre said Jumbo also tagged retired police chief supt. and now Mayor Vicente Loot of Daanbantayan, Cebu and four other police officers as protectors of drug lords.

I authorize the release of his statement upon the request of the Task Force Commander against illegal drugs of the NBI to encourage individuals possessing additional knowledge or information to come forward and corroborate the same, Aguirre said earlier in a text message sent to reporters.

The justice chief said Jumbo is currently under the DOJ's Witness Protection Program.

He made the comment after OsmeAa threatened to file a case against him for allegedly interfering in the tax evasion complaint that the Cebu City government filed against retail giant SM Group and its banking arm, BDO Unibank.

Aguirre dared OsmeAa to just file the graft and disbarment cases against him as the mayor reportedly planned.

He said there was nothing irregular or anomalous in his order to transfer the cases against SM and BDO executives from the Cebu prosecutor's office.

"The conflict between BDO and Mayor OsmeAa there in Cebu is very deep, so the respondents requested that the case be transferred because they could hardly expect fairness, since the people there will favor the mayor," he told reporters on Monday.

"So what I did was to transfer the case here and assign it to one of our prosecutors. But when I did that, it was within my power to transfer cases, which I always exercise," Aguirre explained. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency