No arraignment for De Lima this holiday
Sen. Leila de Lima will be celebrating the coming Christmas and New Year still detained and for a longer period of time.
This after she still failed to enter her plea before the Muntinlupa court anew on Friday, after Department of Justice prosecutors moved to amend the third of the three drug charges filed against her.
The arraignment of De Lima and her co-accused at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 was deferred after the prosecution filed a motion to admit amended information on Thursday.
Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon still has C to notify the parties of the new schedule of their hearings, but De Lima’s camp said it would not be before the year ends.
Branches 204 and 206 of the Muntinlupa RTC, where De Lima’s two other drug trading cases are being heard, also resecheduled her arraignment in January 2018.
At the court room, De Lima, wearing a white and midnight blue striped dress, greeted her fellow respondents: a firm handshake for Franklin Bucayu, the former director general of the Bureau of Corrections when she was justice secretary; warm words for former aide Joenel Sanchez, “Lakasan mo ang loob mo,” and a tap on the shoulder for her former bodyguard and lover Ronnie Dayan.
Absent were her alleged former aides Wilfredo Elli and Jose Adrian Dera. Convicted drug lord Jaybee Sebastian, on the other hand, has a separate arraignment at New Bilibid Prison on Dec. 12.
Manalastas-De Leon ordered the third warrant of arrest against De Lima and her co-accused on Nov. 15. Bucayu voluntarily surrendered and was detained at Camp Crame in Quezon City with De Lima, while Sanchez was committed at Muntinlupa police detention cell with Dayan.
Just like in Branches 204 and 205, the DOJ filed motions to change the charges against De Lima and others from drug trading to “conspiracy to commit drug trading.”
Filibon Tacardon, De Lima’s lawyer, said the DOJ’s tactic was “to avoid the fatal defect on their original information, which is the absence of the actual drugs allegedly traded.”
De Lima’s camp said that based on the decisions of the Supreme Court, actual evidence of drugs, or corpus delicti, was made as an element of drug trading, the absence of which will render reasonable doubt, leading to the dismissal of the case.
Tacardon said they would oppose the prosecution’s motion which “will cause further delay” in her cases.
De Lima’s case has been stalled in the arraignment stage for 10 months after she was arrested in February.
Assistant Prosecutor Ramoncito Ocampo, however, explained the reason for amending was for the charges to be “more precise.”
“We will not in any way prejudice the rights of the accused,” Ocampo said, noting that amending the information was allowed as long as the respondents have not entered their pleas yet.
Ocampo clarified that the prosecution would utilize the same evidence in the amended complaints as those they had in the original.
For Tacardon, however, the DOJ’s flip-flopping in the charges is a sign that the cases against De Lima were “weak from the very start.”
“They are just adjusting [the charges] on what evidence they have,” he said.
Tacardon added: “The informations were so confusing, even we ourselves cannot understand it. How can we defend De Lima if what they charged against her were unclear?”