[ANALYSIS] Leila de Lima’s bail application

Dean Tony La Viña
[ANALYSIS] Leila de Lima’s bail application
'Clearly, the testimonies against De Lima are inadmissible, being hearsay, have little probative value, and are irrelevant, immaterial, and self-serving'

Professing her innocence, Senator De Lima filed on June 15, 2020 a Motion for Bail before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC)-Branch 166 in Criminal Case No. 17-166 for alleged conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading. Since her arrest in February 24, 2017, the senator has been in detention at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City for more than 3 years and a quarter. 

In her bail application, the senator argues that the testimonies of the witnesses presented by the prosecution “gives a clear conclusion that there is no sufficient admissible evidence let alone strong evidence of guilt of accused…” (READ: [OPINION | NEWSPOINT] Leila de Lima, the missed tipping point)

In support of the bail application, Senator De Lima enumerates the following grounds for its grant: (1)  the existence of conspiracy between De Lima and Dera was not properly alleged in the information nor was established by the prosecution; (2) instead of proving her guilt, the prosecution`s evidence in fact established her innocence; (3) there is absolutely no admissible, credible, or direct evidence that the instant case even involves illegal drugs; and (4) the prosecution cannot make the Court rule on any conspiracy involving Peter Co, an unindicted co-conspirator, without violating its ethical and professional duties and Peter Co`s constitutional rights.  

Grounds for bail

On the first ground, Senator De Lima maintains that the prosecution failed to prove that there is conspiracy between her and a certain Dera along with Peter Co to commit illegal drug trading. According to her, the prosecution, despite numerous witnesses, failed to prove a verifiable link between the accused and Dera much less the conspiracy to commit illegal drug trades between her, Dera, and Peter Co. She insists that the alleged relation between her and Dera is plainly conjectural and outright unfounded. 

As to the second ground, De Lima posits that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, instead of proving her guilt, have instead proven the opposite – her innocence. 

On the third ground, De Lima points out that the prosecution has not presented a single gram of illegal drugs in relation to the case. In fact, according to her, the amended information merely states a general averment of “dangerous drugs” and no specific drug that she and Dera allegedly conspired to trade illegally, nor the kind of substance the accused is dealing with. 

As to the fourth ground, she says that Peter Co is an unindicted co-conspirator and not even discharged as a state witness, and as such the Court cannot decide much less ask hypothetical questions about his involvement in the illegal drug trade without violating ethical and professional duty, that the court cannot make a categorical factual finding that Co has committed a crime without him being able to refute the allegation made. She insists that the testimonies of ostensible complainants like Mr Jimenez are purely hearsay and speculative and that the testimonies of the other witnesses, such as that of Arile, an intelligence officer, who testified that he has no personal knowledge of the intelligence reports and that no validation was done, have no value and are patently incredible and conflicting.  

Clearly, the testimonies against De Lima are inadmissible, being hearsay, have little probative value, and are irrelevant, immaterial, and self-serving. 

In a dispatch from Camp Crame, Senator De Lima, reacting to a question from Secretary Guevarra as to why she only applied for bail now, said: “SOJ Guevarra should ask his own prosecutors, all 10 or 15 of them, what happened in this particular case: People v. De Lima and Dera. He should ask why the charges of conspiracy to engage in drug trading became, in the narrative of their own star witness Peter Co, one for kidnapping for ransom. It became clear that this case was about a ninja cop operation, of PNP officers kidnapping Co’s niece and companions and demanding for ransom. It had absolutely nothing to do with me or my job then as Secretary of Justice. It was purely a rogue PNP operation.”

No risk of flight

Finally, De Lima points out in the petition that her long years in public service, her social and political standing as a senator, indicate that the risk of flight is highly unlikely. In this regard, the rule laid down by the Supreme Court in Enrile v. Sandiganbayan is relevant:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. The presumption of innocence is rooted in the guarantee of due process, and is safeguarded by the constitutional right to be released on bail, and further binds the court to wait until after trial to impose any punishment on the accused. 

It is worthy to note that bail is not granted to prevent the accused from committing additional crimes. The purpose of bail is to guarantee the appearance of the accused at the trial, or whenever so required by the trial court. The amount of bail should be high enough to assure the presence of the accused when so required, but it should be no higher than is reasonably calculated to fulfill this purpose. Thus, bail acts as a reconciling mechanism to accommodate both the accused’s interest in his provisional liberty before or during the trial, and the society’s interest in assuring the accused’s presence at trial.” 

In granting Senator Enrile’s petition for bail in that case, a decision which I agreed with and I think should in fairness be extended to others in the same situation of being physically challenged because of age or sickness, or someone who poses no risk of flight like Senator De Lima, the Supreme Court invoked both humanitarian considerations and human rights, saying:

“The Court is further mindful of the Philippines’ responsibility in the international community arising from the national commitment under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to: x x x uphold the fundamental human rights as well as value the worth and dignity of every person. This commitment is enshrined in Section II, Article II of our Constitution which provides: ‘The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.’” 

The Court concludes that the Philippines has the responsibility of protecting and promoting the right of every person to liberty and due process. It must ensure that those detained or arrested can participate in the proceedings before a court, to enable it to decide without delay on the legality of the detention, and order their release if justified. Our government, according to the Court, is obliged to make available to every person under detention such remedies which safeguard their fundamental right to liberty, the right to be granted bail. – Rappler.com

Tony La Viña teaches law and is former dean of the Ateneo School of Government.

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