LP senators to DOJ: Arrest warrant without credible evidence is illegal

MANILA, Philippines – Senators from the Liberal Party on Sunday, February 12, slammed the impending release of an arrest warrant against their party mate, Senator Leila de Lima.

LP President Senator Francis Pangilinan, Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, and Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said the release of an arrest warrant without "credible evidence" is a violation of the law.

The 3 slammed the testimonies of high-level inmates against De Lima before a House probe, citing the "Bilibid riot" involving inmate Jaybee Sebastian, which was supposedly meant to coerce him to testify. (READ: De Lima: What Bilibid riot? Gov't wants to threaten inmates)

"Filing charges and issuing warrants of arrest without credible evidence or witness is illegal and unjust – whether ordinary Filipino or senator. The stabbing of potential witness Jaybee Sebastian also puts a serious cloud of doubt on the veracity of his testimony and those of other inmates made to testify who may all very well be fearful for their lives," the LP senators said in a joint statement.

Despite Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s denial, documents from the Bureau of Corrections show that he allowed the VIP treatment of the inmates in exchange for their testimonies that De Lima facilitated the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

Political tool

The senators also called on the Department of Justice to follow the rule of law by supporting the Ombudsman’s investigation into the drug charges filed against the lady senator.

The Ombudsman, they added, has primary jurisdiction over cases against public officers covered by the Sandiganbayan Law, specifically the Violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act filed against De Lima.

The LP senators also warned that cases are being used by the administration as "political tool, propaganda, and smokescreen or distractions for the public."

"We also call on the public to remain vigilant and to cultivate a discerning eye and a critical mind for truth and justice," they said.

Aguirre has said the arrest warrant against De Lima would be released "anytime soon."

De Lima also earlier said she received reports that the DOJ is filing the cases before regular courts to expedite the release of an arrest warrant against her. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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