‘No reason under the law to continue detaining de Lima,’ says lawyer
MANILA, Philippines— Coming after former senator Leila de Lima’s acquittal in one of two remaining drug-related cases against her, the Movement Against Disinformation (MAD) called for her immediate release as she awaits the resolution of Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 256 on her petition for bail.
“There’s no reason under the law to continue detaining Sen. Leila de Lima any longer. She has to be released as soon as possible, given the acquittal right now. Let her have her day in court, but again, the bail has to be granted at this time. It has to be granted very very soon,” said Atty. Rico Domingo, MAD chairman and lead convener, in a Friday interview with Inquirer.
The lawyer said de Lima’s constitutional right to a speedy trial has not been observed, as cases against her have now stretched over six years.
“[As it says in the] constitution, you have the right to speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases. That is your right, your constitutional right. And that right has not been observed, with all due respect, in the case of Senator de Lima,” he pressed.
Accountability for delayed trials, ‘frivolous’ motions
Domingo also said that there are “some criminal culpabilities” in de Lima’s cases and that “a lot of people may be held accountable,” depending on how she decides to seek accountability following her cases.
“Accountability-wise, the Filipino people should know that there is a rule of law and that [it] would pertain to equality of treatment before the law. Hindi dapat may impluwensya sa kung sino may power ay umiiral. Hindi dapat ganun. Dapat pantay pantay po tayo,” he stated.
(Accountability-wise, the Filipino people should know that there is a rule of law and that it would pertain to equality of treatment before the law. Those with power should not have more influence. We should all be equal.)
Lamenting continued delays in de Lima’s trial and release, the lawyer also called for improvements in the nation’s judicial system.
“The conduct of [de Lima’s] trial should be examined,” Domingo asserted.
“According to the existing rules of court, dapat mayroong period para matapos ang lahat ng trial. Anong nangyayari? Bakit hindi natatapos? Ang nangyayari dito – adjournments, maraming motions for extension, motions for postponement. Pero walang nangyayari diyan,” he went on.
(According to the existing rules of court, there should have been a set period in which all these trials should have ended. What happened? Why has it not ended? What happened was – adjournments, several motions for extension, motions for postponement. But nothing really happens here.)
In April, Supreme Court launched its Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability, a master text for lawyers and legal professionals that Domingo hopes will combat such “frivolous motions.”
“Ako’y natutuwa sa nangyaring development na ‘yan because that will give lawyers more responsibility. Hindi yung parang frivolous na motions, pinapagbigyan… para lang i-delay ang kaso,” he said.
(I’m pleased with this development because it will give lawyers more responsibility. So that we can avoid permitting frivolous motions that would delay cases.)
“The court has to be strict on that so that that will expedite the resolutions,” he concluded.
‘Untruthfulness’ in de Lima’s case
Dissecting the role of disinformation in de Lima’s cases, Domingo said much of the evidence— particularly in the case from which she was just acquitted— was “fabricated and perjured.”
“Therefore, there is every reason to believe that there has been some disinformation, misinformation, or even untruthfulness in this particular case. So we are against that. That’s the reason why we joined the defense team of Sen. Leila de Lima,” said MAD chairman.
Domingo primarily cited the recantation of former NBI deputy director Rafael Ragos as an example of this “untruthfulness.”
Ragos, who accused de Lima in 2016 of benefiting from illegal drug trading inside the New Bilibid Prison, retracted his statement through an affidavit in April 2022.
“Of course, the judge of this particular case— of (Muntinlupa RTC) Branch 204— did not give full credence to the testimony of Mr. Ragos. But again so there are two conflicting versions of what is the truth— and what is the truth? So one must be lying,” he posed.