SC: De Lima faces probe on hearsay evidence
Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. contradicted himself numerous times in rejecting the plea of detained Sen. Leila de Lima to toss out her indictment for drug trafficking, according to two of his colleagues in the Supreme Court.
Velasco, who was appointed by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, wrote the high court’s majority decision that upheld De Lima’s arrest based on the criminal complaint brought against her by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
In his dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa pointed out that Velasco had previously voted to grant a similar petition of former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., who was indicted for plunder and graft in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Caguioa said Velasco had reminded the 15-member tribunal, which voted 13-1 in junking Revilla’s plea, that it should “temper the prosecuting authority when it is used for prosecution.”
However, he said his fellow justice opted not to invoke the same “balancing rule,” which Velasco himself said was “intended to guarantee the right of every person from the inconvenience, expense, ignominy and stress of defending himself/herself in the course of a formal trial,” in weighing De Lima’s petition.
A check made by the Inquirer on Velasco’s opinions regarding Revilla’s and De Lima’s petitions revealed that he actually took contrasting views on other similar legal matters.
In dismissing her certiorari petition, Velasco said hearsay evidence was enough to prompt the DOJ to conduct a preliminary investigation against an accused and that the testimonies provided by De Lima’s supposed coconspirators, among them convicted drug lords, should not be disregarded outright.
But in the decision he issued on Revilla’s petition on Dec. 6, 2016, he stressed that the “testimony made by the confessant is hearsay and inadmissible as against his coaccused even during the preliminary investigation stage.”
In his own dissent, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that in at least 13 drug cases he reviewed, Velasco himself had ruled that the “essential elements” of illegal drug trade must be present in prosecuting such criminal offense as spelled out in Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Carpio said Velasco and other justices who voted to shoot down De Lima’s petition had previously opined that the “identity of the buyer and the seller, the object of the sale and the consideration, and the delivery of the [drugs] sold” should be established.
“However, the information… as filed against (De Lima), clearly and egregiously does not specify any of the essential elements necessary to prosecute the crime of illegal sale of drugs,” Carpio argued.
De Lima had tried to seek Velasco’s inhibition from her petition due to his supposed ties with convicted drug lord German Agojo, who had also testified against her.
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