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MANILA, Philippines – The freedom of former senator Leila de Lima was a long time coming, according to retired Supreme Court (SC) senior associate justice Antonio Carpio.
“Well, it’s good that finally, bail has been granted because you know, under the Constitution, when you are charged with a crime, and the evidence of guilt is not strong, you have the right to bail. It’s your right to bail,” the retired magistrate told reporters on Wednesday, November 15.
“Dapat binigay itong right to bail noon pa. Kasi wala naman talagang, sabi ko walang base talaga (This right to bail should have been granted earlier. Because in the first place, I already said earlier that there was no basis for her case),” Carpio added.
For six years and nine months, De Lima was detained for three drug charges filed under the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte. She was accused of being involved in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison to fund her 2016 senatorial run.
The charges were filed at the height of De Lima’s criticisms against Duterte’s bloody drug war that killed close to 30,000 people. In a span of almost seven years, De Lima secured two acquittals: one in 2021, and the other one last May.
On November 13, De Lima finally walked free from detention after Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 206 granted her bail. She had to ask the court to reconsider her bail after the previous one, Branch 256, denied her bail petition in June.
During his conversation with reporters, Carpio also noted that he dissented on De Lima’s case when it reached the High Court during his time. Carpio said he wrote in his dissenting opinion that there was no probable cause against De Lima and that in every prosecution, there must be concrete evidence of a crime or corpus delicti.
However, in De Lima’s case, there was no strong evidence to prove De Lima’s supposed involvement in the illegal drugs allegation.
“Sabi ko wala talaga, this is persecution, this is not prosecution. That was my dissenting opinion. From the very start, sabi ko, walang kaso ito (I said there was really nothing, this is persecution, this is not prosecution. That was my dissenting opinion. From the very start, I said there was really no case),” Carpio said.
When De Lima’s case reached the Supreme Court, Carpio, along with current associate justices Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, and then-associate justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Francis Jardeleza, were the only magistrates who sided with the former lawmaker.
In his dissenting opinion, Carpio even referred to De Lima’s detention then as “one of the grossest injustices” in recent memory. – Rappler.com