SC decision vs De Lima ‘unfortunate,’ say minority senators

Camille Elemia
The Supreme Court decision junking Senator Leila de Lima's petition 'highlighted Duterte's total control and manipulation of the three branches of government for his evil political ends,' says opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV

UNFORTUNATE. Minority senators expressed sadness over the decision of the Supreme Court junking the petition of Senator Leila de Lima. File Photo from De Lima's office

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition senators expressed sadness over the Supreme Court decision junking the petition of Senator Leila de Lima.

The High Court, voting 9-6 on Tuesday, October 10, said the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) has jurisdiction over the cases filed against the senator, and not the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the decision legitimized the political persecution of De Lima and proved Duterte’s “manipulation” of all 3 branches of government.

“The SC ruling is quite unfortunate as it virtually puts a stamp of legitimacy on the political persecution and injustice being done to Sen. Leila De lima,” Trillanes said in a statement.

“It also highlighted Duterte’s total control and manipulation of the three branches of government for his evil political ends. Dapat tindigan natin ito,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon reiterated his belief that the Ombudsman and, subsequently, the Sandiganbayan have authority over De Lima’s case.

Nakakalungkot. Ang aking paniwala ay dapat Ombudsman ang mag-hear nito. (It’s saddening. My belief is that the Ombudsman should hear the case.) But I respect the decision of the Supreme Court. I’m a lawyer and former justice secretary, I disagree but I will respect the SC decision,” Drilon told reporters on Tuesday, October 10.

“I assume Sen. De Lima will file a motion for reconsideration and I hope the SC can take a close second look at the decision,” he added.

Senator Risa Hontiveros shared the same view and said the fight to free De Lima, Duterte’s fiercest critic, is still on.

“Nakakalungkot ang desisyon. Ganun pa man, tuloy ang laban para palayain si Senator Leila de Lima sa pagkakapiit gamit ang mga peke at walang basehang kaso,” Hontiveros said in a statement

(The decision is saddening. Even then, the fight for Senator Leila de Lima’s release from jail using fake and baseless case is on.)

Hontiveros also urged the public supporting democracy and human rights to continue supporting the detained senator.

“Sa panahon ng dilim at lagim, higit kailan man, taimtim nating ituloy at lalong palawakin ang laban para sa katotohanan at katarungan,” she said. (In times of darkness, all the more, let us solemnly continue and widen the fight for truth and justice.)

Meanwhile, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, De Lima’s former friend and client, said he “respects” the court decision. After all, he said the SC has studied the case more thoroughly than anyone in the Senate.

Pimentel said De Lima still has a recourse, as she can still file a motion for reconsideration.

“We respect the decision of the Supreme Court. They’ve studied the case more thoroughly than us here. May second review pa siya (De Lima), the court itself hearing her case,” said Pimentel, a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.

De Lima was arrested in February for allegedly receiving money from drug convicts inside Bilibid in exchange for their protection. The money, the convicts claimed, was meant for De Lima’s senatorial bid in 2016. (READ: EXPLAINER: What is Leila de Lima being accused of?)

The basis for her arrest were the testimonies of Bilibid convicts, who De Lima claimed were forced to so. The congressional investigation happened after De Lima launched a Senate probe into the spate of extrajudicial killings under Duterte.

A panel of prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ), under Duterte’s friend and ally Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, handled the complaints, despite De Lima’s contention that it is the Ombudsman which has jurisdiction over her. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com