MANILA, Philippines – Detained former senator Leila de Lima can ask the Supreme Court (SC) for her temporary liberty, following the High Court’s ruling which granted Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes her temporary release from jail, according to former SC spokesperson Theodore “Ted” Te.
“Since the January 17, 2023 Resolution in GR No. 254838 (1st Div) creating a WRIT OF INTERIM HABEAS CORPUS is not designated as one that applies pro hac vice (only in this instance), Leila De Lima should file a petition for HC tomorrow as a test,” Te said.
Reyes, former chief of staff of presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile, was released from jail on Thursday, January 19, after the SC granted her the privilege of writ of habeas corpus. Reyes had been in jail since 2014 after she was slapped by the Office of the Ombudsman with graft and plunder charges.
The SC ruled that Reyes was granted 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.”
Because of the ruling, a new remedy for temporary release became available, Te explained. The “interim” writ of habeas corpus – as Te calls it – is similar, but not exactly like bail. Traditionally, the extraordinary writ is used to challenge the detention of a person, lobby their release, and “to inquire into the cause of detention of a person.”
“The SC did not expressly say the Rule on Habeas Corpus is amended but with the issuance of Guidelines pursuant to the Court’s rule-making power, it may be reasonably understood that the Rule has been modified,” Te told Rappler.
The legal remedy also “widened the space and opportunities” for others similarly accused, especially those whose bail is discretionary and “whose rights to speedy trial are violated,” Te said.
The “unforeseen consequence” of the ruling on Reyes is that other applicants will seek the same privilege from the High Court, he added.
“The consequence of this new interim writ is that all those similarly situated to the applicant under the Guidelines will now file petitions with the SC. Hopefully, it will not become an opportunity to narrow the scope of the interim writ’s application,” Te said.
De Lima has been detained for almost six years – since 2017 – for drug charges. The cases stem from accusations that she ran a drug trade in the Philippines’ main national penitentiary, New Bilibid Prison, to fund her successful 2016 senatorial campaign.
Aside from being acquitted from one of three drug charges against her, the prosecution’s star witness, Rafael Ragos, recanted his statement and said he was only forced to lie. Alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa also cleared De Lima from the accusations, adding that he was also coerced.
‘New habeas corpus writs’
The SC ruling on the Reyes case made it clear that there are now at least three types of writ of habeas corpus that can be invoked: pre-charge, post-conviction, and interim (Reyes case), Te explained.
He added that the ruling also differentiated the “interim” writ of habeas corpus from the two instances when interim bail was granted. “Interim bail” means bail is discretionary.
“Interim bail 1 (affidavits presented hearsay, as found by the SC pre-arraignment), interim bail 2 (health condition) both involved the same applicant,” the human rights lawyer said.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla shared the same position with Te.
“The same reasoning may apply to Sen. De Lima’s case,” Remulla told reporters.
But former DOJ chief and now Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said the ruling will be applied on a “case-to-case basis.”
“I believe that the court’s ruling in this case will have to be applied on a case-to-case basis, depending on the facts of each particular case, and not as blanket precedent.”
Guevarra added that the Office of the Solicitor General will study the ramifications of the SC ruling. – Rappler.com