Hearing on De Lima bail plea delayed anew
A Muntinlupa court has deferred anew its ruling on former Sen. Leila de Lima’s bail plea on her remaining drug charge.
Meanwhile, state prosecutors said they were due to present 20 more witnesses—but De Lima’s top lawyer said most of them had already testified against her in previous hearings.
Presiding Judge Romeo Buenaventura of Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 256 gave no specific date on when the bail plea would be resolved, but said it would be “very, very soon.”
De Lima’s lead counsel, Boni Tacardon, said: “We understand the court because the records are voluminous. We have more than 30 records plus transcripts and stenographic [records] of almost 20 witnesses.”
He said the court might rule on his client’s bail petition in the next hearing scheduled on June 19.
Junked drug cases
Buenaventura had earlier postponed last month’s hearing on the bail petition after he noted “inconsistencies” in the markings of the prosecution’s evidence.
State prosecutors admitted to the mistakes, while Tacardon acknowledged that these were made in good faith.
But he noted that most of their witnesses were already examined in two junked drug cases.
De Lima, a staunch critic of the drug war and human rights record of former President Rodrigo Duterte, had been charged during his administration with three counts of conspiracy to commit drug trading. The first was dismissed in February last year by Branch 205 of the Muntinlupa court.
Branch 204 acquitted her last month of the second charge, citing the recantation of former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos, who had earlier testified that he delivered drug money to De Lima
As she left the courtroom on May 12, a visibly relieved De Lima remarked to reporters that “This is the beginning of my vindication.”
Tacardon said allowing the witnesses to return to the witness stand would “result in a relitigation which violates the rule on double jeopardy.”
He said among those witnesses were operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Anti-Money Laundering Council who were already “exhaustively” examined by both the prosecution and defense in the other two drug cases.
Tacardon said he did not expect them to add anything new and the defense would have to adopt the same cross-examination.
As a compromise, he said, De Lima’s legal team had requested the prosecution to submit its list of witnesses with a summary of their testimonies, so those who might be reconsidered could be identified.
He said the defense had since moved to cross out 17 of them.
After the prosecution rests its case, Tacardon said De Lima’s lawyers would file a demurrer to evidence, or a plea to dismiss the charges on the ground of insufficiency of evidence—as they did in her first drug case, which led to its dismissal.
Before she was returned to her detention quarters in Camp Crame after Monday’s hearing, De Lima told her supporters gathered outside the court that “justice is coming soon.” INQ