WATCH | A day after Marcelino’s release, Aguirre says DOJ eyeing ex-PDEA top agent to testify vs De Lima

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Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino raises his hands after being released on bail from the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame in this June 3, 2016 file photo. (Philstar/Micahel Varcas)

MANILA, Philippines – Marine Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Marcelino is being considered by the Department of Justice to testify against Sen. Leila de Lima on the drug-related charges field against her by the DOJ.

DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre announced the agency’s intention for Marcelino to become a witness against the detained lawmaker a day after the Marine officer was released from his four-month detention at the military headquarters in Camp Aquinaldo in Quezon City.

The former top agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) walked free on Thursday, May 18, after the DOJ dropped its drug charges against Marcelino and his Chinese informant Yan Yi Shou, who were arrested during a raid at a shabu (crystal meth) warehouse in Sta. Cruz, Manila early last year, during the last months of the Aquino administration.

DOJ case vs Marcelino: Junked, revived, junked again

After his arrest last year, Marcelino was detained in January 2016 but he was released in June 2016 after the DOJ, then under the Aquino administration, dismissed the drug charges against the Marine officer for lack of evidence.

But in September 2016, the DOJ, which was already under the Duterte administration, revived the case against Marcelino and filed an illegal possession of drugs case against him before Branch 49 of the Manila Regional Trial Court.

In the same month last year – when the House Committee on Justice was conducting a series of inquiries into the alleged proliferation of drugs inside the National Bilibid Prison during the Aquino administration – De Lima claimed that Marcelino was being pressured to testify against her alleged role in the entry of narcotics in the national penitentiary when she was still DOJ chief.

De Lima said she had received two of Marcelino’s text messages dated July 19 and September 5, 2016, which were forwarded to her by a person whom she and Marcelino both knew. In the messages, Marcelino allegedly told his classmate (mistah) at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) that he was fearing for his life.

“Mistah good pm. Magpasalamat lang sana ako sa lahat ng tulong at efforts mo for me habang ako ay nasa kulungan. I can never thank you enough mistah. Hindi pa ako masyado makagalaw at labas ngayon dahil ang dami gusto kumatay sa akin, bok,” read the text message supposedly sent by Marcelino to his PMA classmate in July 2016.

[Classmate, good afternoon. I just want to thank you for all your help and efforts while I was still inside prison. I can never thank you enough, classmate. I still can’t move and go out freely because many people want to kill me.]

“‘Di ko pa din mapuntahan si Senator LD (Leila De Lima) kasi ginagawan kami ng mga fabricated stories (I still can’t go to Senator Leila De Lima because they are fabricating stories about us.) There are also some groups who [are] trying to convince me to speak against her,” read the same message .

Another part read of the message read, “But rest assured na hindi ako pagagamit sa kanila mistah [I would not allow myself to be used], not only because I really appreciated and forever indebted sa inyo ni Ma’am, but because the people deserve no less than the truth and justice.”

The Sept. 5, 2016 message read, “Mistah pressures against me are mounting and they would even reopen my case, but rest assured that I will never give in to them mistah. Please tell Senator Leila to keep faith and be strong.”

Marcelino did not testify against De Lima during the House investigations in September last year, the same month when the DOJ revived the case against him and when he allegedly said through a text message that his case would be reopened.

On January 3, 2017, while facing trial for illegal possession of illegal drugs, the Marine officer surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which was the same day that the DOJ sought a hold departure order against Marcelino.

After more than four months, the DOJ issued a resolution on Wednesday, May 17, reversing its September 2016 findings against Marcelino and dropping the drug charges against the Marine officer.

Marcelino’s possible testimony: De Lima visit at Camp Crame, PDEA exclusion in Bilibid surprise raid

On Friday, May 19, Aguirre said Marcelino “is a possible witness” against De Lima.

Asked by reporters what testimony would Marcelino likely give, Aguirre said, “‘Yong conversation nila ni De Lima when she visited him and when PDEA was left out from the Oplan Galugad at NBP, among others.”

[His (Marcelino’s) conversation with De Lima when she visited him and when PDEA was left out from the Opland Galugad at NBP]

On March 27, 2016, De Lima, who at that time was still the DOJ chief, visited Marcelino at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City where he was detained after his arrest in January 2016.

The Oplan Galugad that Aguirre was referring to were the numerous surprise raids conducted at the NBP by the DOJ when De Lima was still the agency’s secretary.

During a hearing at the House of Representatives in September 2016 on the alleged drug trade in Bilibid, Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, former head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said De Lima allegedly prevented his men and the PDEA from taking part in Oplan Galugad in December 2014.

The raid was followed by the transfer of high-profile inmates tagged as Bilibid 19 to the National Bureau of Investigation main office in Manila.

Click and watch this video report by Patrician Mangune, News5