Roque, Aguirre cry possible judge bias in De Lima’s bail approval
MANILA, Philippines – Former presidential spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque and former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday alleged that the judge who approved the bail petition of former Senator Leila De Lima might have been biased in making the decision.
Roque and Aguirre were both part of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet.
Speaking at Kapihan sa Manila Bay, the former Duterte Cabinet members assailed the alleged connection between De Lima and Judge Gener Gito of the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 206.
Roque, in a Facebook live on Tuesday, claimed that Gito was De Lima’s “favorite student” in San Beda College of Law.
The “special relationship” was kept hidden from the public and the prosecution, Roque said during Wednesday’s forum.
He added that, in his view, such an alleged association was a valid ground for the judge’s inhibition in the case.
“Bakit itinago in the first place? Dapat maiwasan ang lahat ng bagay na magkakaroon ang taong bayan ng doubt na hindi patas. Dapat dinisclose,” Roque said.
(Why was it hidden in the first place? Everything that could make the public doubt fairness should be avoided. It should have been disclosed.)
Aguirre echoed Roque’s sentiments, saying that he could confirm that before Gito’s stint as judge, the evidence against De Lima was strong.
Aguirre noted that Gito’s predecessor, Judge Romeo Buenaventura, had already denied De Lima’s prior motion for bail, adding that Buenaventura considered the “evidence of guilt is strong.”
“After Judge Buenaventura was replaced by Judge Gito, De Lima’s camp filed a motion for reconsideration. What did the judge say about his decision? He said that the case against De Lima is very weak as if it’s already known that she will be granted bail, and not only that, she might even be acquitted,” the former justice secretary said in a mix of Filipino and English.
In June, Judge Buenaventura recused himself from De Lima’s case after it was exposed that his brother had served as a lawyer for De Lima’s co-accused Ronnie Dayan, which qualified as a conflict of interest.
After nearly seven years at Camp Crame’s detention in Quezon City, De Lima was released on bail on November 13.