Follow the money

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    ‘…they can downplay the development ad infinitum ad nauseam, but to this day there has not been a single whit of credible proof that can remotely hold up these allegations against De Lima.’

    THE cliché “follow the money” is a cliché for one reason: it’s true, in most cases. When it comes to cases of graft and corruption, ill-gotten wealth, or other personal enrichment offenses involving public officials, a financial and forensic audit of the suspect’s finances is a useful tool when it comes to trying to zero in on the penultimate question: where are the fruits of this personal benefit or gain, and how did it get there?

    In the case of detained Sen. Leila de Lima, the cliché holds true: follow the money. If the prosecution says that De Lima extorted money from these witnesses, then it is incumbent upon them to show evidence that the exchange actually existed. Apart from clear and corroborated testimonial evidence, showing the money trail (was it deposited in banks?

    Were there large disbursements from De Lima’s known bank accounts, if any? Were there similar increased and unexplained amounts deposited in accounts linked to the Senator?) would have aided the prosecution in making its case against De Lima.

    However, the testimony of representatives from the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency proved the contrary. There were reportedly no suspicious transactions flagged originating from De Lima’s accounts, and no phone calls or messages to suggest that she corresponded with these supposed conspirators.

    Viewed in its totality, this latest development certainly chips away at the case the prosecution is trying to build. Why? We have to remember that the entire case against De Lima was built solely on the testimony of so-called witnesses who alleged that they gave her bribes in exchange for allowing them to continue to facilitate their illegal drug business while serving their sentences inside the New Bilibid Prison. (In fact, one of the charges against De Lima is for the alleged violation of Section 5 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which prohibits the “sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of illegal drugs,” but so far there has been no other evidence introduced about the circumstances of the alleged sale or trade.) If the testimony against De Lima is uncorroborated by other documentary or testimonial evidence, then it proves that there is a lot of daylight between these allegations and what accusations can stand up to the scrutiny of the court.

    Some officials will seek to downplay the development as making a mountain out of a molehill, and will probably dismiss it as a non-victory. These same officials will insinuate that the AMLC’s forensic investigator’s testimony can only mean that she probably hid the money under the bed, or she must have used pigeons and smoke signals to communicate with her supposed cohorts. Again, they can downplay the development ad infinitum ad nauseam, but to this day there has not been a single whit of credible proof that can remotely hold up these allegations against De Lima.

    It is my hope, despite the delays that have happened, that the court will look upon these developments with a cold and objective eye, and resolve this trial in the speediest manner possible in the interest of justice. Otherwise, what chances will an ordinary citizen wrongly accused of a crime have against the political powers-that-be?