De Lima: Continuing trial proves ‘broken’ justice system | Inquirer News
‘Political prisoner’ turning 62 this month

De Lima on her 2,000th day in jail: Proof of ‘broken’ justice system

/ 05:48 AM August 18, 2022
Leila de Lima. STORY: De Lima on her 2,000th day in jail: Proof of ‘broken’ justice system

Former Sen. Leila de Lima (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — Former Sen. Leila de Lima, now arguably the country’s most prominent detainee, marked her 2,000th day of incarceration, saying her continuing trial on “utterly false” drug trafficking charges despite the recantation of key government witnesses showed how “broken” the Philippine justice system had become.

The opposition figure, who earlier served as justice secretary and chair of the Commission on Human Rights, has been held at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, since Feb. 24, 2017, after being charged with conspiracy to commit drug trafficking during the Duterte administration.

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She has strongly denied the charges and denounced her prosecution as political vendetta for the Senate inquiries she launched into then President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs and his human rights record as then mayor of Davao City, particularly in connection with the so-called Davao Death Squad. Local and international civil society groups have since clamored for her release, including some American lawmakers.

“My continued detention on the basis of evidently and utterly false cases is yet another reminder to the world that the justice system in our country is broken,” she said in her latest handwritten dispatch issued from Camp Crame on Tuesday.

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2 more cases

Denied bail, De Lima faced three drug cases in the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court, one of which ended in her acquittal in February last year.

She maintained that she became a “political prisoner” being held on trumped-up charges “because I dared to speak for those who were oppressed against a populist tyrant.”

“And by fabricating spurious charges against me to deplatform and silence me, the former wannabe dictator only proved my point and solidified his status as an oppressor, demonstrating his vindictiveness,” said De Lima, who will turn 62 on Aug. 27.

Despite being in jail during much of her six-year term as senator, and before losing in her reelection bid in the May elections, De Lima was able to file a total of 181 bills and 166 resolutions.

“Due to my continued unjust detention, I missed my opportunity again this year to participate in plenary sessions and important debates in the Senate, but I regularly worked on filing bills and resolutions and pushed for the passage of several bills into laws as chairperson of the Senate committee on social justice, welfare and rural development,” she said.

Among the bills she authored and were passed into law were the Magna Carta of the Poor, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps law, the Community-Based Monitoring System Act and the National Commission of Senior Citizens Act.

Bribery raps junked

The Office of the Ombudsman last week dismissed for lack of probable cause the bribery complaints against De Lima and her former aide, Ronnie Dayan, which accused them of raising her 2016 election campaign funds through the illegal drug trade.

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At least three state witnesses — confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, Marcelo Adorco, and former Bureau of Corrections officer in charge Rafael Ragos — have recanted their testimonies linking De Lima to narcotics, claiming they were only coerced by former government officials and the police during the Duterte administration.

Citing the retractions and, lately, the Ombudsman’s resolution, De Lima and her lawyers have called on the new leadership of the Department of Justice (DOJ), under the Marcos administration, to finally drop her remaining two cases.

But the DOJ, now headed by Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, said it would still leave the disposition of the cases to the Muntinlupa court.

De Lima’s defense lawyer Boni Tacardon earlier said she would reapply for bail, stressing her release should now be “inevitable… because [the former senator] did not commit the crimes attributed to her.”

—DEXTER V. CABALZA

RELATED STORIES

DOJ to provide Senate status report on de Lima’s cases

CHR wants criminal raps for officials who coerced witnesses vs De Lima

De Lima: Junking of bribery raps disproves Duterte admin’s ‘Kerwin fairytales’

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TAGS: De Lima drug cases, Leila de Lima, Rodrigo Duterte
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