Leila de Lima

DOJ ‘will not object’ if De Lima files habeas corpus plea

Michelle Abad

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DOJ ‘will not object’ if De Lima files habeas corpus plea

ON TRIAL. Former senator Leila de Lima waves to her supporters at the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court on January 27, 2023.

Inoue Jaena/Rappler

'It is their right after all as a citizen detained to ask the courts why she is detained, and for the courts to decide or not if a grant of liberty is appropriate,' says Justice Secretary Boying Remulla

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) “will not object” if detained former senator Leila de Lima files a petition for the writ of habeas corpus, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said on Monday, February 20.

“Probably they should petition for habeas corpus and explain the case to the courts. We will not object…. I am not objecting personally to any plea that will free anybody from jail. But siyempre (of course), this is something better discussed in court,” Remulla told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony for the release of persons deprived of liberty at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

“All of us have our means of defending ourselves. We have our remedies available under our legal system, so let it be that way. If they wish to petition for habeas corpus, so be it,” he said. “It is their right after all as a citizen detained to ask the courts why she is detained, and for the courts to decide or not if a grant of liberty is appropriate under the circumstances.”

The writ of habeas corpus is the right to determine and challenge if a person is being lawfully or unlawfully detained. (READ: EXPLAINER: The right to speedy trial)

The Supreme Court (SC) on January 19 allowed the temporary release of Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, the former chief of staff of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile who was tagged in the pork barrel scam, when it granted her petition for the writ of habeas corpus.

Following Reyes’ release, former SC spokesperson Theodore Te said De Lima could file for the same writ. De Lima’s lawyer Boni Tacardon said the defense team was studying the possibility of filing a similar petition.

Reyes had been in jail since 2014 after facing graft and plunder charges from the Office of the Ombudsman. The SC said it granted Reyes the extraordinary writ because her constitutional right to speedy trial was infringed, and her detention had “become oppressive thus infringing upon her right to liberty.”

There are at least three types of the writ of habeas corpus that can be invoked: pre-charge (before the filing of a case), post-conviction (after the judgment of a court), and interim (while court proceedings are ongoing).

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On Friday, February 24, De Lima will mark her sixth year in detention. De Lima was a staunch opposition figure during the Rodrigo Duterte administration, and remains on trial for drug charges she and her camp believe are trumped-up.

De Lima’s arrest and continued detention have drawn national and international attention.

In June 2022, European Union officials urged then-incoming president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to address concerns over human rights, the rule of law, and blows to democracy that the Duterte administration left behind, bringing special attention to De Lima’s case. If the situation in the Philippines failed to improve, the country would risk losing its EU trade perks. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.