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Ex-DOJ exec denies drug role.

Saying he had 'limited' jurisdiction over penitentiaries, former Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III on Wednesday denied any involvement in the sale and distribution of illegal drugs at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

President Duterte has identified Baraan among the people who appear on a matrix illustrating the alleged connections of Sen. Leila de Lima with detained drug lords when she was the justice secretary in the Aquino administration.

'[Drug peddling] is something I totally cannot imagine myself being involved in; it contradicts the deepest Christian values I hold dear. I know myself, and in due time the truth will prevail,' Baraan said.

In a statement he issued on Wednesday morning, Baraan asked to be accorded due process in light of the President's accusation.

He said a formal complaint would allow him to present his side.

'I respect our President, but I am powerless before him. All I ask is fairness and due process, a chance to vindicate myself in a formal proceeding,' he said.

Baraan said he was never the undersecretary in charge of the penitentiary in Muntinlupa.

He said he exercised only limited administrative supervision of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), an agency attached to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which has supervision over NBP and the six other major prisons in the country.

'I never oversaw, either on the ground or from a distance, the prison operations in BuCor's seven penal colonies, more so New Bilibid Prison,' Baraan said.

A typical day in the office, he claimed, would see him reviewing BuCor documents and contracts endorsed by its technical services unit. He would then countersign the documents for the justice secretary's final signature.

'That takes just a few minutes. Then, for BuCor, my task is done that day,' he said.

Baraan acted in a similar capacity when it came to other DOJ-attached agencies, including the Board of Pardons and Parole, Parole and Probation Administration, and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

He said his other tasks included resolving petitions for review (appeals against the prosecutors' findings to the DOJ), attending meetings and receiving foreign guests.

'I am one of the members of the official Philippine panel that successfully negotiated the Edca (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) with the US panel,' he added.

Baraan, a resident of Dagupan City, served on the Pangasinan provincial board from 1988 to 1992 before he joined the DOJ in 2010.

Duterte confirmed on Wednesday that Baraan was one of the DOJ officials on his matrix of the 'Muntinlupa connection,' in which De Lima is the highest official.

The President aired his recent accusations against De Lima as the junior senator began a legislative inquiry into the extrajudicial killings and police excesses associated with the administration's campaign against illegal drugs.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Aug 25, 2016
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