Why did court grant bail for De Lima and others?
MANILA, Philippines — After six years, eight months, and 24 days, former Sen. Leila de Lima described her temporary liberty as a “sweet, sweet freedom.”
“It is a legal vindication,” De Lima said in a press conference after her release on Monday. She said that from the start, she and her lawyers were confident of her bail petition.
“We are confident on the merits. It is just unfortunate that the previous handling judge denied it. So, when we filed our motion for reconsideration. We remain confident that the merits of our application will be recognized,” she said.
She said they were also confident that they could expect a ruling by September. Still, she said it was understandable that the decision took longer because the new judge assigned to the case had to review voluminous records of the case.
Also allowed to post bail were former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Jesus Bucayu, De Lima’s former aide Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s former security aide Joenel Sanchez, and Jad Dera.
P65 million cash inside a ‘kubol’
The 69-page ruling of Presiding Judge Gener M. Gito of Branch 206 of the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa City said the testimonies of the witnesses failed to establish conspiracy among the accused to do illegal drug trading at the New Bilibid Prison.
One of the witnesses, retired Col. Jerry Valeroso. testified that he saw more than P65 million in cash scattered at the “kubol” [a tent-like dwelling inside the prison] of Chinese inmate Sam Li Chua.
Valeroso previously testified in court that he did several surveillance operations before concluding that the drug trade was a “lucrative business” inside the national penitentiary.
However, the court said that even assuming the information is accurate “the same would nevertheless fail to establish conspiracy.”
The most “damning” part of Valeroso’s testimony, the court said, was when he saw De Lima, Dayan, and Sanchez during a concert organized by inmate Herbert Colanggo.
“This, by itself, however, will not prove conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading among all accused,” the court said.
It added that the P65 million inside the “kubol” of a Chinese convict could not be considered “direct or circumstantial evidence of a common resolution to commit a crime.”
Colanggo’s hearsay testimony
Even the testimony of Colanggo, who claimed that they were told to raise funds through illegal drug trade to finance De Lima’s senate bid was “not sufficient to establish conspiracy among the accused.”
In his testimony, Colanggo said fellow convict Jaybee Sebastian told him to consolidate their operations to raise funds for De Lima.
“This statement of Sebastian, as testified by Colanggo, cannot be used against De Lima because it is hearsay. Colanggo’s testimony cannot be used to prove the truth of Sebastian’s statement,” the court said.
Center of Magalong’s testimony
The court said the testimony of retired General Benjamin Magalong’s testimony centered on the illegal drug trading inside Bilibid.
The court said the initial investigation by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police did not mention the conspiracy between De Lima, Bucayu, Dayan, Sanchez, and Dera.
“If the purpose of Magalong’s testimony is to establish that Bucayu was involved in drug trading inside NBP because of his hesitancy to proceed with the planned operation, the prosecution is failing. The hesitancy of Bucayu will not amount to involvement or participation in illegal drug trading,” the court said.
As for De Lima, the court said Magalong’s testimony was “even confirmatory of her lack of involvement in illegal drug trading” after she expressed her interest when she was informed of the CIDG’s investigation.
“In fact, De Lima initiated the meetings to plan the operation. And the raid was conducted on December 14, 2014, which Magalong assessed as successful,” the court noted.
Testimonies of other witnesses
The court added that the testimonies of the other witnesses also failed to boost the evidence against De Lima and the other accused. The court was referring to Nonito Arile, Renante Diaz, Engelberto Durano, Noel Martinez, and Joel Capones.
“The evidence so far presented by the prosecution failed to prove the individual act of the accused which when combined, will prove complicity,” the court said.
“Thus assessing the totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution, the Court is of the firm view and so holds that accused de Lima, Bucayu, Dayan, Sanchez, and Dera should be allowed to post bail as the prosecution was not able to discharge its burden of establishing that the guilt of the said accused is strong,” it added.