Muntinlupa court denies bail plea of former Senator Leila de Lima
MANILA, Philippines–The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256 has denied the bail petition of former senator Leila de Lima, her lawyer confirm Wednesday.
“Sad to inform you that the Court denied Sen. Leila’s Bail application,” Atty. Boni Tacardon told reporters.
Branch 256 is handling the complaint for conspiracy to commit drug trading against de Lima, former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Jesus Bucayu, Bucayu’s former staff, Wilfredo Elli, inmate Jaybee Sebastian, Ronnie Dayan, de Lima’s former security aide, Joenel Sanchez; and Jad Dera.
State prosecutors accused de Lima and Bucayu of tolerating the illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison’s maximum security compound from May 2013 to May 2015 when she was serving as the Justice Secretary.
“…Based on the evidence thus far adduced by the prosecution, the Court is convinced that there is a great probability that the crime charged has been committed and that the accused are the agents thereof,” the Muntinlupa Court said through Presiding Judge Romeo S. Buenaventura.
“Wherefore, premises considered, the instant petitions and motions for bail are hereby denied,” read the ruling dated June 7.
The court said the presentation of the prosecution’s evidence-in-chief would proceed as scheduled on June 19 and 26.
With the denial of the bail plea, de Lima will remain in detention while the proceedings continue.
De Lima now has one pending drug case before the Muntinlupa court, as the two other drug cases have been dismissed.
Aside from de Lima, the court also resolved the bail petition of her co-accused Sanchez, Bucayu, Dayan, and Dera.
The court anchored its ruling on the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, which mostly convicts inside the New Bilibid Prison, including Nonilo Arile, Engelberto Durano, Noel Martinez, Joel Capones, Herbert Colanggo, and Jojo Baligad.
The court said, “The prosecution was able to prove prima facie the agreement and the decision to commit illegal drug trading among the accused as evidenced that NBP inmates were used–the overt act–to sell and trade dangerous drugs by means of mobile phones and other electronic devices through direct proof, that is, the testimonies of the co-conspirators themselves, which are straightforward, positive, and interlocking in material details.
De Lima argued that the testimonies of the witnesses were inconsistent and hearsay.
But the court said, “minor and insignificant inconsistencies tend to bolster, rather than weaken, the credibility of the witnesses for they show that their testimony is not contrived or rehearsed.”
On the argument that the testimonies of the witnesses are mostly hearsay, the court said they fall under the doctrine of independently relevant statements.
“What was admitted as evidence was the fact that the utterances were actually made, not necessarily that the matters stated therein were true. On this basis, the statements attributed by the witnesses to the persons who did not testify are admissible and not covered by the hearsay rule.”
Even with the denial of the bail plea, the court clarified that it does not reflect what the final outcome of the case will be as the presentation of evidence continues.
“To repeat, the purpose of the hearing is merely to determine the weight of evidence for purposes of bail,” the court said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the denial of the bail plea is not the end for de Lima.
“They still have to go through trial because the presentation of evidence has not been terminated,” he said.
“The court decided on and we have to respect the court for its own ruling,” he added.