De Lima to seek dismissal of 2 drug charges
MANILA, Philippines — The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch hearing two of the three drug cases against Sen. Leila de Lima allowed her to file a motion for their outright dismissal, her staff said on Wednesday.
Fhillip Sawali, De Lima’s chief of staff, said Judge Liezel Aquiatan of RTC Branch 205 gave the senator and her lawyers 10 days to file a demurrer to evidence in Criminal Cases No. 17-165 and 17-166, after the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors finished presenting their evidence against her on charges that she was involved in a conspiracy to commit drug trading at New Bilibid Prison.
The prosecutors will have 10 days to respond to her demurrer and the court will consider the cases submitted for resolution, Sawali said.
A demurrer is a motion asking the court to dismiss a case on grounds that the evidence presented by the prosecutors were insufficient for a criminal conviction.
If the demurrer is granted by the court, the case is dismissed with no need for the accused to present evidence. But if it is denied, the trial proceeds and the accused must present evidence to refute the charges.
“In both cases, the prosecution failed to establish the existence of any money trail, transaction, and derogatory intelligence or information that would implicate Senator De Lima to the [Bilibid] drug trade, or any supposed criminal conspiracy,” Sawali said in a statement.
Año may be called
De Lima’s lawyers maintain that despite testimonies of 20 witnesses and not fewer than 78 documents, the prosecutors still failed to prove that the senator took part in the alleged conspiracy to commit drug trading as defined by the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The DOJ accused De Lima, who oversaw the Bureau of Corrections when she was the justice secretary, of receiving millions of pesos from alleged drug transactions in Bilibid to fund her senatorial campaign in 2016.
But her lawyers argued that the prosecution was unable to establish the facts that could prove that De Lima was involved in the “sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation” of any dangerous drug.
Rolly Peoro, a lawyer for De Lima, told reporters after a hearing on Tuesday that if the court rejected their demurrer, they would call as their first witness Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who was chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the time the drug offenses were allegedly committed by the senator.
“We want to get the information from him that there’s no intelligence report or any link against Senator De Lima in the illegal drugs trading,” Peoro said.
Darwin Cañete, Muntinlupa senior assistant city prosecutor, said the prosecution was “confident that the proof that we have presented is persuasive, that indeed the elements of the crime that we have alleged against the accused have been proven.”
De Lima has two pending motions for bail in RTC Branch 205, and a third one in Branch 256, also citing the “weak” evidence of the prosecution.
Prosecutors have not finished presenting evidence in the third drug case against the senator in RTC Branch 256.
The cases have been dragging on since 2017 in the Muntinlupa RTC partly due to exchanges of motions between the defense and the prosecution before De Lima was arraigned.
Also, a total of 10 judges have handled the controversial cases, with the previous eight either inhibiting themselves or opting for early retirement, or transferring to another court.
De Lima, one of President Duterte’s most strident critics, has been detained at the police custodial center in Camp Crame since February 2017 on charges that she was involved in the drug trade at NBP from 2012 to March 2016.
The senator has strongly denied the charges, saying the cases were part of the political harassment by the President in retaliation for her investigations of killings in Davao City when he was still its mayor, and the extrajudicial killings later in his war on drugs after he took over Malacañang.
—With a report from Melvin Gascon
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