Remulla sees De Lima acquittal in last drug case

Daphne Galvez – The Philippine Star

November 16, 2023 | 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla thinks former senator Leila de Lima will likely be acquitted in her remaining drug case after a Muntinlupa court granted her bail on Nov. 13.

“Chances are she will be acquitted. There’s a huge chance. Bail is not granted just like that. We trust the judge on this matter,” Remulla said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

He noted that De Lima’s last drug case, in which she allegedly conspired to commit illegal drug trading using New Bilibid Prison inmates, is non-bailable.

“When it becomes bailable, it shows the kind of evidence that the prosecution was able to establish in the eyes of the judge. This case cannot be granted bail if the evidence is strong. Vice versa, if the evidence is weak, bail can be granted,” he said in a press briefing.

Judge Gener Gito of the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 206 allowed De Lima to post P300,000 bail, pointing to the prosecution’s lack of substantial evidence to sufficiently establish her guilt.

“(This is a) strong statement when you say the prosecution was unable to fulfill its burden of proof that is necessary for them to keep her in detention,” Remulla added.

In a separate interview with reporters, former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio said there should not have been a case against De Lima in the first place.

“They did not even present shabu (methamphetamine) as evidence. They just said that (De Lima) allowed drug lords to operate in the Bilibid prison. And all their witnesses, principal witnesses, were convicts. And convicts, you know, they’re not reliable witnesses,” he said.

“I said there was no case at all. This is persecution, not prosecution. That was my dissent. From the very start I said there is no case here,” he added.

Right to fair, speedy trial

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has welcomed Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206’s decision allowing De Lima to post bail after spending nearly seven years in prison.

“Just as the Commission always stands for the rights and dignity of all, we take this moment to similarly stress that every Filipino is entitled to a fair trial and speedy disposition of cases, as well as to the equal protection of laws, as guaranteed in the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” the CHR said in a statement.

De Lima, a former CHR chairperson, had three drug charges filed against her in 2017 based on allegations that she was involved in the illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary. She was acquitted in her first charge in February 2021 and second charge in May.

She said that her detention was Duterte’s way to silence her for criticizing his bloody war on drugs.

The CHR also urged the government to review cases of other inmates awaiting a resolution in their cases, adding that the agency would help in its compliance with human rights obligations such as the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism.

Duterte can’t be forgiven

In an interview with OnePH’s “Sa Totoo Lang” yesterday, De Lima said she has forgiven those behind her detainment except for former president Rodrigo Duterte.

“He knows exactly what he did to me. All those who had a hand in placing me in jail, not only the witnesses but also the operators, I have already forgiven them a long time ago. He’s the only one who I have not forgiven,” she said.

As for whether her legal team will pursue legal action for “reckoning,” De Lima said they are discussing what case to file and when it will be lodged.

“If I don’t do anything, what will prevail in the future, the future president, future leaders to be doing these things for vindictive, vengeful purposes,” she noted.

De Lima said they will go after former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and others who fabricated charges against her. She will also monitor the International Criminal Court’s investigation into Duterte’s crimes against humanity.

The former senator plans to practice law again or go back to teaching. — Janvic Mateo


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