Leila de Lima

DOJ will oppose De Lima bail if she insists on basing it on merits of the case

Jairo Bolledo

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DOJ will oppose De Lima bail if she insists on basing it on merits of the case

DOJ CHIEF. In this file photo, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla says Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnulfo Teves Jr. is being considered as one of the masterminds in the killing of Gov. Roel Degamo, during a press briefing at the Department on Justice on March 27, 2023.

Rappler

After asking to reopen one case still pending against the former senator, the DOJ is insisting on bail based on humanitarian grounds only – contrary to what De Lima prefers

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said they will oppose the bail of detained former senator Leila de Lima if her camp continues to push for her temporary release based on the merits of the case.

“The fact that we wanted to have bail is based on humanitarian grounds, not on the merits of the cases. So if they insist on making the merits of the cases the ground for bail, then I guess we will have to object to it,” Remulla told reporters on Thursday, April 20.

Remulla said the talk about De Lima’s bail started after the release of Gigi Reyes, the former aide of former senator and current Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile. Reyes, who was involved in the pork barrel scam, was temporarily released when her right to speedy trial, through the writ of habeas corpus, was invoked.

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The justice secretary said he was “agreeable” to the bail for De Lima and remains supportive of the move so long as it would be based on a writ of habeas corpus petition. Remulla said the same thing back in February – days before De Lima marked her sixth year in detention. (READ: DOJ ‘will not object’ if De Lima files habeas corpus plea)

Remulla also claimed that De Lima’s counsel took advantage of the government’s “softness” then by filing a motion for bail based on the merits of the case. On February 24, De Lima’s camp filed a motion for bail to seek her temporary release. It took two months for the government to react to it.

The justice secretary added they also offered hospital rest to De Lima due to humanitarian considerations and because of the fact that she was a former senator and secretary of justice, Remulla added. However, Remulla claimed that De Lima’s counsels did not respond to the gesture.

“We want to give her a fair shake, no matter what. And maybe a respite from detention. But her lawyers think otherwise, I think [they think] they should take advantage of this opportunity to say she’s innocent and why she should be granted bail,” Remulla said.

De Lima, one of the staunchest critics of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody drug war, has been in detention for over six years over drug-related charges filed against her under Duterte. The former DOJ chief and chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights was accused of allegedly accepting money from the illegal drug trade inside New Bilibid Prison to fund her 2016 senatorial campaign.

So far, De Lima has been acquitted in one of three charges. 

The prosecutors want to open criminal case no. 165, or the charge against De Lima for alleged violation of section 5 of the Dangerous Drugs Act. The case was filed based on the allegation that De lima extorted money from New Bilibid Prison inmates through former acting Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos and her former aide, Ronnie Dayan. 

The other remaining case was filed against De Lima for allegedly tolerating the “widespread drug trade” inside Bilibid’s maximum security compound.

Prosecutors want to reopen case

Remulla’s current pronouncement against De Lima’s bail comes after prosecutors sought to reopen case no. 165. The motion was filed despite the court’s move that set the promulgation of judgment on May 12.

The DOJ chief said the proceedings were immediately terminated after the retraction by Ragos. Remulla said that because of this, the prosecution is entitled to a rebuttal.

Ragos, who was the prosecution’s star witness, retracted his statement and said he was only forced to lie against De Lima.

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De Lima’s camp opposed the motion to reopen the case and said the presentation of evidence was terminated on March 10. Over a month has passed since the said date, and yet the prosecutors remained silent about their intent to introduce rebuttal evidence, De Lima’s lawyers said in their petition. 

At present, there are looming concerns over De Lima’s motions to gain temporary freedom. The judgment in one of her cases has been set for May 12, while her petition for bail on the other case will be decided on May 8.

The DOJ is, however, moving to reopen one case, while warning to block bail on the other one. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.