Muntinlupa court upholds Leila de Lima’s 2nd acquittal
The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has upheld the acquittal of detained former Sen. Leila de Lima in one of the three drug trafficking cases filed against her during the Duterte administration.
Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 denied the state prosecutors’ motion for reconsideration that sought to reverse the May 12 decision that cleared De Lima and her ex-security aide Ronnie Dayan of the charge.
“The Court finds no compelling reason to reconsider the acquittal,” Alcantara said in a five-page ruling dated July 6 and released only on Friday.
De Lima and Dayan were accused of being in a conspiracy to commit drug trafficking, a charge that eventually went unsupported especially after the recantation of the prosecution’s star witness, former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos.
Eighteen days after the acquittal, the Department of Justice filed a motion asking the court to “take a second look at its judgment by considering the Supreme Court’s pronouncement that mere recantation of a prosecution witness does not necessarily vitiate his or her original testimony if credible.”
The former senator’s defense team opposed the motion by asserting that the case was already “concluded with finality” and thus “unappealable, whether by motion for reconsideration with the trial court or by appeal to a higher court.”
In rejecting the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration, Alcantara said: “This Court has taken great care and prudence in evaluating all testimonies and pieces of evidence submitted by both the prosecution and defense. The Court gave the prosecution full and ample opportunity to present its case.”
He also stressed that the prosecution may no longer seek a review without violating De Lima’s constitutional right against double jeopardy.
Detained at Camp Crame since February 2017, De Lima has been acquitted twice and awaits the decision on her third and last case, which is pending before the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206.
On June, however, she suffered a legal setback when Branch 206 denied her petition for bail.
A fierce critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte over his human rights record and bloody antidrug campaign, De Lima, a former justice secretary and human rights commission chair, has denounced the charges as mere political vendetta.
The opposition figure has earned supporters in the Philippines and abroad, including lawmakers and civil society groups, all calling for her immediate release from jail.
—Abby Boiser INQ