MANILA, Philippines – After 3 years in jail, opposition Senator Leila de Lima filed for bail on Monday, June 15, for one of the 3 drug charges against her, saying the government has not produced enough evidence against her.
In a 44-page motion, De Lima sought for bail before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 over her alleged violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act Section 26 on conspiracy, which she said was based on hearsay.
The offense is non-bailable, but De Lima applied for bail “because the evidence (against her) is insufficient” in this case, said her counsel Boni Tacardon.
Apart from the conspiracy case, however, De Lima is also facing two drug trade cases. Both are non-bailable. “We recognize the fact that there are two other cases which are non-bailable, but despite the same we are filing this petition for bail if only to send a signal,” Tacardon said.
De Lima said in her motion that she should be granted on the grounds that there is no evidence of conspiracy, strong evidence of her innocence, failure to prove illegal drug trade links, questionable value of testimonies, and that is she not a flight risk.
De Lima was accused of demanding P30 million and 4 vehicles for her 2016 senatorial bid from high-profile prisoner Peter Co when she was justice secretary. Department of Justice prosecutors argued that a certain Jose Adrian “Jad” Dera facilitated the deal, whom the former claimed as De Lima’s nephew. (READ: EXPLAINER: What is Leila de Lima being accused of?)
De Lima’s alleged violation was conspiracy in relation to Section 5 which penalizes the “sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of illegal drugs” and Section 3(jj) on drug trading.
The senator’s lawyer said the prosecution has failed to show a relationship between De Lima and Dera. In 2019, De Lima maintained that she doesn’t know Dera, while Dera’s lawyer said the latter only used De Lima’s name to gain access to the drug network in the New Bilibid Prison as a confidential police agent.
Proving her ‘innocence’
During the hearings, Co said at the witness stand that the money and vehicles given to Dera was the ransom paid by his niece who was allegedly kidnapped by Dera’s anti-drug unit. The DOJ had dismissed the drug charges against Co to be a state witness against De Lima.
“Instead of proving her guilt, the prosecution itself provided strong evidence of accused De Lima’s innocence and the regularity of the performance of her duties as then secretary of justice,” De Lima said in the motion released to the media on Tuesday, June 16.
“Despite its numerous witnesses, the prosecution miserably failed to prove a veritable link between accused De Lima and Dera, much less the alleged conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading among De Lima, Dera, and Peter Co,” she said.
Tacardon told Rappler that they deemed now as the “proper time” to file the motion after listening to the witnesses and evidence presented by the prosecution.
“We feel that the prosecution utterly failed to make the proper connection. Their claim of conspiracy was never between Senator De Lima, Dera, and Co,” Tacardon told Rappler in a phone interview.
“It’s high time if only to send a signal how trumped-up the charges are,” he added.
Tacardon added that they’ve been contemplating to file the motion for bail after Co gave his testimony at the witness stand from January to February this year, but the lockdown happened in March.
Further, visits to the senator were banned by the Philippine National Police for more than a month. Calls were also restricted. Limited visits to the senator was only allowed on June 10.
“Definitely, we had a hard time finalizing everything we want Senator De Lima to be part of the development for petition for bail,” the lawyer said.
Other cases non-bailable
In February 17, 2017, the DOJ filed 3 criminal complaints – one conspiracy and two related to drugs – against De Lima.
The drug accusations stemmed from a marathon House inquiry, where high-level inmates alleged that the senator facilitated the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.
De Lima, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, dismissed the charges as “plain and simple political persecution.” – Rappler.com