Leila de Lima

Court affirms De Lima’s acquittal in one drug case

Jairo Bolledo

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Court affirms De Lima’s acquittal in one drug case

ACQUITTED. Former senator Leila de Lima alights from the police's service vehicle to attend the promulgation of one of her cases on May 12, 2023.

Jairo Bolledo/ Rappler

(1st UPDATE) A Muntinlupa court denies for lack of merit the prosecution's motion that challenged De Lima's acquittal

MANILA, Philippines – A Muntinlupa court affirmed the acquittal of former senator Leila de Lima in one of her drug cases.

In a decision dated July 6, but only made public on Friday, July 28, Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Presiding Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara junked the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration, asking the court to reconsider De Lima’s acquittal.

“WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Motion Reconsideration filed by the prosecution is denied for lack of merit,” the order read.

On May 12 this year, the same Muntinlupa court cleared De Lima and aide Ronnie Dayan of their drug charges. The latest acquittal means De Lima has only one more charge pending before Branch 256. Another Muntinlupa court had already cleared her in one of the three charges in 2021.

In its May 12 decision, the court said the retraction of Rafael Ragos, former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge, created “reasonable doubt” about the accusations against the opposition leader. The court added that the prosecution failed to prove De Lima’s ties to the alleged drug trade inside the national penitentiary.

Shortly after this acquittal, the DOJ prosecutors filed their motion for reconsideration, challenging the acquittal. The prosecution said Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 204 “erred” in ascribing weight to Ragos’ recantation, adding that he “extensively” testified on his original statements against the former lawmaker.

Court’s order

In its order, Judge Alcantara said that every acquittal becomes final once it was promulgated, and it could not be recalled for amendment. 

“With the acquittal being immediately final, granting the State’s motion for reconsideration in this case would violate the Constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy because it would effectively reopen the prosecution and subject the accused to a second jeopardy despite their acquittal,” the judge’s order read, adding that an acquittal is unappealable. 

The judge said the prosecution cannot seek a review on De Lima’s acquittal without placing her in double jeopardy. The judge also noted that the accused has a constitutionally enshrined right against double jeopardy.

In further explaining his decision, the judge noted that the rule on double jeopardy could only be raised in two rare exceptions: 1. Deprivation of due process, finding of a mistrial; 2. There’s a grave abuse of discretion under exceptional circumstances.

The court noted that the prosecution was afforded with due process and given all opportunities to present its case.

“The Court gave the prosecution full and ample opportunity to present its case. To emphasize, the Court allowed the prosecution to extensively cross-examine the recanting witness Ragos which was conducted in multiple lengthy hearings. During cross-examination, the prosecution was further permitted to confront witness Ragos with the video recording of his interview before the Public Attorney’s Office,” the order read.

However, the court found reasonable doubt to acquit De Lima and Dayan, upon appreciation of the totality of evidence. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

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