Opposition lauds De Lima acquittal, notes justice system problems

Opposition lauds De Lima acquittal but notes problems in justice system

/ 08:48 PM June 24, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — As personalities from the opposition lauded the acquittal of former Senator Leila de Lima from drug-related charges, they also noted that the cases against her serve as a reminder of the problems in the country’s justice system.

In a statement on Monday, Liberal Party (LP) president and Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said that justice prevailed for de Lima after she was acquitted in the third drug-related case against her.

READ: De Lima acquitted in last drug case


However, Lagman said the delay of this justice — over seven years since the cases were filed — “brutalizes the rule of law.”


“Justice finally prevails for former Sen. Leila de Lima. Her innocence has been upheld. Her indomitable spirit has conquered the vileness of malicious prosecution,” Lagman said of de Lima, who is LP’s spokesperson.

“But justice inordinately delayed brutalizes the rule of law,” he added.

Other opposition lawmakers ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro and Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas also shared Lagman’s sentiments.  According to Brosas, the fight for justice does not end with de Lima’s acquittal, but only after those responsible for her long incarceration are held accountable.

De Lima was placed in detention in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame on February 24, 2017, after the Department of Justice under former President Rodrigo Duterte filed three counts of illegal drug trading — based on claims that the former senator supposedly conspired with inmates at the New Bilibid Prison to use the drug trade for her senatorial bid in 2016.

She was only released from detention last November 2023, after she was acquitted in two cases and after the same court that acquitted her today allowed her temporary freedom.

READ: After 6 years, De Lima free as court okays bail 


“Ilang taon matapos ikulong si former Sen. Leila De Lima, ngayon lang binasura ang mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa kanya. Pinapakita lamang nito ang kabulukan ng sistema ng hustisya dito sa Pilipinas,” Brosas said.

(Several years after former Sen. Leila De Lima was detained, it is only now that they junked the trumped-up cases against her.  This only shows the rotten nature of the Philippine justice system.)

“The fight for justice does not end here. We must hold accountable those responsible for unjust incarceration and the trumped-up charges against former Sen. De Lima, especially former Pres. Duterte,” she added.

Castro said that the acquittal allegedly showed that the charges against de Lima were political in nature.

“The junking of all drug charges against former Senator Leila de Lima is a significant victory not just for her, but for all those who have been unjustly accused and detained under the previous administration’s war on drugs,” she said.

“This decision exposes the fabricated nature of the charges and the abuse of the justice system for political ends. Justice for the other victims of the Duterte drug war should also be fast-tracked considering that they have also been waiting for years, especially to those who were extrajudicially killed by the police,” she added.

Brosas also said she hoped other political prisoners would get a chance at justice like de Lima did.

“While former Sen. de Lima’s acquittal is a victory for justice, it is a stark reminder that many other political prisoners remain behind bars for trumped-up charges. We will continue to amplify our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, the dropping of all fabricated charges against activists, and the cessation of all forms of political persecution,” she added.

Labor leader and 2022 presidential candidate Leody de Guzman, meanwhile, said de Lima’s ordeal was a mere symptom of all the issues with the country’s justice system.

“Ang pagkadismiss ng lahat ng kaso ni Sen. Leila de Lima ay patunay sa bulok na klase ng hustisya laluna sa panahon ni Duterte. Subalit sintomas lamang ito ng mas malalim na suliranin — ang elitistang paghahari, na nagkokonsentra ng kapangyarihan sa iisang tao,” he said in a separate statement.

(The dismissal of all cases against Sen. Leila de Lima is further proof that the justice system is rotten, especially under the time of Duterte.  But this is just a symptom of a bigger problem — the kingdom of the elites, where power is concentrated in one man.)

De Lima was acquitted by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court after her demurrer to evidence was granted.

Under the Rules on Criminal Procedure, a demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss due to insufficiency of evidence. A defendant cites that the evidence produced by the prosecution is insufficient to make out a case, whether true or not.

Once granted, the case will be dismissed, and it is tantamount to an acquittal.

De Lima for several years has insisted that she was a prisoner of conscience, noting that cases were filed against her because she initiated a Senate probe on alleged extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s term.

Duterte maintained that the drug cases against the former senator had basis, insulting her several times and even calling her a “prisoner of lust.”

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READ: Duterte: ‘Bitch’ De Lima made world believe she’s prisoner of conscience

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