De Lima appeals SC decision on drug cases

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima on Friday, November 3 appealed the Supreme Court's decision that upheld her arrest ordered by a Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) in relation to drug charges filed against her.

"This afternoon we are filing the motion for reconsideration in her case," De Lima's legal counsel and former solicitor general Florin Hilbay said in a media briefing on Friday. 

According to Hilbay, they felt mixed emotions after reading the SC decision on De Lima's case.

"We're sad because the majority of the members of the Supreme Court decided that the cases should continue, and therefore she will have to be in continuous pre-trial detention. At the same time, we're happy because if you read the decision of the Supreme Court,  what you will see is a judicial confirmation that the charges are… fake," he said in a mix of English and Filipino, echoing the dissent of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio

Hilbay said even the 9 members of the SC who voted against De Lima do not agree on the nature of the charges against De Lima: 5 believe the charges are for illegal drug trading, 3 believe it's conspiracy to commit drug trading, while one is unsure whether it's illegal drug trading or conspiracy to commit drug trading. 

De Lima's Summation of Votes

"What does that mean? That means that the information is void, it's vague, and therefore, you don't have enough votes to sustain the validity of the information," he explained.

Hilbay said this was a judicial admission on the part of the majority that the charges against De Lima are "not clear."

"And if the charges are not clear, it violates the right of Senator De Lima to know the cause of the accusation against her. That is the most basic constitutional right of an accused in a criminal proceeding," he added. 

He said the SC decision is "no longer the rule of law; this is the rule of madmen; this is a circus only madmen will enjoy."

"What we’re saying is rather simple, everyone can understand it: It's so unfair for a person – whether it's Senator De Lima or a member of the Supreme Court or an ordinary citizen – to be held for 232 days or 233 days on charges that nobody understands, even the members of the Supreme Court."

Hilbay said that by virtue of the SC decision itself, they are sure that De Lima will be acquitted.

"At the most basic level, nobody can say that there was probable cause for the issuance of the warrant of arrest because you can only issue a warrant of arrest for a specific charge," he added.

Hilbay again insisted that by "reangling" the charges at the level of the Supreme Court and changing the accusation from illegal drug trading to conspiracy to commit drug trading, the government itself admitted De Lima is not a drug lord. 

Since the 9 justices do not agree on the nature of the charges, Hilbay said De Lima is then entitled to an immediate release.

"That's mandatory, that if the judge does not understand the case, Senator De Lima must be released, and government, the Department of Justice, must study again what case should be filed against her," he said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Hilbay added: "Hindi puwede na habang pinag-iisipan nila 'yung kaso e ikukulong siya, (It's not fair for them to keep her jailed why they study the case again) because that is unfair. And you don't need a constitutional expert to understand why that is unfair."

'Rectify the injustice'

In her petition, De Lima asked the High Court to nullify the warrant of arrest issued against her by the RTC and to stop the RTC from conducting further proceedings on her drug case.

But with a vote of 9-6, the SC, on October 10, ruled that the Muntinlupa RTC, and not the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, has jurisdiction over the drug trade cases filed against De Lima.

The SC, in its ruling penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr, junked all the points raised by De Lima in her petition.

In dismissing the petition, the SC allowed 3 RTC branches in Muntinlupa to continue with their proceedings on the senator's drug case. De Lima also remains in jail at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

The 9 justices who voted against De Lima were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano Del Castillo, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes, and Alexander Gesmundo.

Meanwhile, the 6 who voted in favor of the senator were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes SerenoCarpio, and Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Francis Jardeleza, Marvic Leonen, and Benjamin Caguioa.

In a separate statement, De Lima appealed to the SC to seize the "opportunity to rectify the injustice” committed against her.

"It is fortunate that Petitioner is a lawyer, a lawmaker and a human rights defender who is vigilant of her rights, who fights for her liberty and freedom not otherwise available to those who cower in fear and subjection. Otherwise, the opportunity to rectify the injustice might have never even arisen," the detained senator said.

She added: "And it may yet still be lost, and the failure to remedy this injustice will go down in history as a tragically novel case where the Supreme Court – the last bastion of the Rule of Law – stood aside and willingly allowed a citizen, a human rights lawyer, and a dissenter to be incarcerated under charges that are demonstrably false based on the opinions of the members of the Honorable Court."

She also urged the SC not to allow itself to become an "instrument of injustice" by allowing the proceedings, which, according to her, are "undeniably political persecution and abuse of governmental power." –

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.