Solons urge DOJ: Drop De Lima’s drug raps after witnesses recant
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been urged to withdraw the drug-related charges it filed against former senator Leila de Lima following the recantations of key witnesses and the dismissal of one of the three drug cases that the former legislator was facing.
In a resolution filed on Tuesday, several House of Representatives lawmakers, including key members of the Minority bloc, said that it is becoming apparent that De Lima was unjustly arrested and detained as witnesses have admitted that they were just asked to testify against her.
De Lima is still detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame due to allegations of being involved in the drug trade and for supposedly using drug money for her political campaign.
However, several witnesses have recanted previous claims, like self-confessed and jailed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa who now denies assertions that De Lima was involved in the drug business; former Bureau of Corrections head Rafael Ragos who said he was coerced by former Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II; and former de Lima aide Ronnie Dayan who said that he was forced by a former lawmaker to admit that they received drug money.
“With these series of recantations, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Senator de Lima’s arrest and continued unjust detention was nothing more than a carefully orchestrated ploy to silence an outspoken critic and passionate human rights advocate,” the lawmakers who filed the resolution said.
“The DOJ, under its current leadership, should take into account these recantations, immediately withdraw all pending drug charges against Senator de Lima, and move for her release from detention,” they added.
The House members who filed House Resolution No. 198 are:
- Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel
- Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. France Castro
- Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas
- Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman
- Camarines Sur 3rd District Rep. Gabriel Bordado
- Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman
- Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Lorenz Defensor
- Bukidnon 2nd District Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores
- APEC Rep. Sergio Dagooc
- Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante
The lawmakers warned the DOJ that every single day that justice is not served is equal to a mockery of the entire justice system.
“Every day that justice is not served amounts to a mockery of the whole justice system. It is thus incumbent upon the House of Representatives to call on its co-equal branches of the government to be true to their mandate of ensuring that justice is served without passion or prejudice and always with fairness,” they noted.
Hours after the filing of the resolution, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed charges against De Lima and Dayan for indirect bribery, still related to the alleged conspiracy where the former senator, who was former Justice secretary, will protect Espinosa’s drug operations in exchange for money.
According to the resolution from the Office of the Ombudsman, the respondents — Dayan and De Lima — presented witnesses who proved that Dayan could not have been a part of any dealings in March 2015 because he was not part of the former senator’s campaign team.
Witnesses also denied that Dayan was in Baguio when De Lima and Espinosa supposedly met — contrary to claims by the prosecution.
De Lima has been detained for five years after she was suspected of allowing illegal drugs to proliferate inside the New Bilibid Prison — an attached agency of the DOJ which was under her watch as Justice secretary.
The senator used to head DOJ during the administration of late former president Benigno Aquino III.
Former administration officials including former president Rodrigo Duterte himself claimed that de Lima should be jailed for her alleged participation, but the senator however claimed it was just a case of political vendetta, because she led investigations on Duterte’s drug war in the Senate, and probes on human rights violations when the President was still Davao City mayor.
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