PHILIPPINE Senator Leila de Lima has been acquitted in one of three drug charges she is currently facing.
Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 Judge Leizel Aquiatan on Wednesday, February 17, granted De Lima’s demurrer to evidence in Case Number 17-166.
A demurrer is a motion to dismiss a case due to insufficient evidence presented by prosecutors. When granted, the case is considered dismissed.
“The Demurrer to Evidence filed by Accused Leila De Lima is hereby granted. The petition for bail is rendered moot and academic as the grant is tantamount to her acquittal,” read the ruling.
The court denied a separate demurrer filed by De Lima’s co-accused Jose Adrian Dera. He was, however, allowed to post a bail bond P500,000.
According to reports, Dera was supposedly De Lima’s nephew but later claimed to be a police informant. He allegedly received money from convicted drug lord Peter Co on behalf of De Lima, but the court found that “no link between the two accused was proven.”
“Thus, it cannot be concluded that they agreed to engage in illegal drug trading,” the omnibus order said.
“As such, his demurrer to evidence must be denied as conviction is still possible. He has to answer why he introduced himself as an agent or relative of De Lima to Hans Tan and to explain the money he received from the inmates,” it added.
Second demurrer denied
In a separate ruling, Aquiatan denied De Lima’s demurrer and motion to post bail in Case Number 17-165.
The demurrer filed by co-accused Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s former aide, was likewise denied. Reports said that Dayan allegedly received money from former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos, which he delivered to De Lima.
The court noted that De Lima “did not investigate the source” of the money, nor did she return it, leading to a conclusion that she knew the money came from illegal drug dealings.
“The prosecution witnesses sufficiently established that accused De Lima, as the Secretary of Justice at the time, enabled the NBP inmates to resort to illegal drug trading so that they can collect funds for her campaign,” it added.
Aquiatan said “it is imperative” for De Lima and Dayan to explain the alleged receipt of the money. The judge also wants De Lima to explain why the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) were excluded in the surprise 2014 raid at the New Bilibid Prison.
“These facts, if unrebutted, the same is prima facie sufficient to support a verdict of guilt against the accused,” the court said.
De Lima and Dayan’s lawyers will present their evidence and witnesses on March 5.
The senator’s third charge, Case Number 17-167, is pending before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256.
De Lima welcomes ruling
In a statement, De Lima said: “To be acquitted even in just one case, in the time of Duterte, is a victory.”
She also maintained her innocence, pointing out that the evidence against her is weak and made up.
“Puro laway lang ang basehan… Ang kaso laban sa akin ay conspiracy to engage in illegal drug trading. Pero ang lumabas sa mga pagdinig, walang ebidensya ng kasunduan (The evidence is just based on their words. The case against me is conspiracy to engage in illegal drug trading. But the hearings found there was no evidence of any collusion),” said De Lima.
“Walang kahit isang testigo na nagpatunay na ako at ang aking kapwa akusado ay nakipagsabwatan sa mga drug lords para maglako o magbenta ng ilegal na droga sa Bilibid (There were no witnesses that proved I and the co-accused conspired with drug lords to sell illegal drugs in Bilibid),” she added.
De Lima also said that her camp will be reviewing the court’s ruling in Case Number 17-165 so they can file a motion for reconsideration.
“Ang labang ito ay hindi lang personal kong laban, kundi laban ng sambayanan (This is not just my personal fight but the people’s fight),” she stressed.
“Mula’t sapul, ang mga kasong ito ay ginagamit lamang na paraan para patahimikin ako at gambalain ang aking paglilingkod sa bayan bilang senador (From the start, these cases have been used to silence me and interfere with my public service as a senator),” added De Lima.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) said it respects the court’s decision.
“The DOJ has always trusted in the good judgment and impartiality of the trial court,” said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
“We believe that the honorable judge has diligently examined and weighed all the evidence presented by the prosecution before making a determination as to its sufficiency or insufficiency, and for this reason, we reiterate our utmost respect,” he added.