Dissenters say constitutional right violated

The Philippine Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 6, said that detained Senator Leila de Lima’s appeal to reconsider an arrest warrant against her has been denied with finality, upholding that her arrest based on drug charges were valid.

Through a 9-5 vote, the high court resolved “to deny with finality the said motion for reconsideration as the basic issues raised therein have been passed upon by this Court and no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned Decision,” said the en banc in a decision dated April 17, but released to media on Wednesday.  

“No further pleadings or motions will be entertained.  Let entry of judgement be made immediately,” it added.

The appeal dismissal was the second for De Lima who has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crane since February of last year, following allegations that she had been involved in illegal drug trades inside the national penitentiary.  

The latest vote was similar to the first with the exception of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was on leave last April and was unable to cast her vote.  She had voted the first time in favor of De Lima’s petition.

Of the nine who voted to deny De Lima’s appeals were associate justices Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Alexander Gesmundo, Samuel Martires, Diosdado Peralta, Andres Reyes, Noel Tijam, and Presbitero Velasco Jr.

The five who voted in favor of granting De Lima’s appeals were associate justices Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Estela Perlas Bernabe, Francis Jardeleza, Marvic Leonen, and Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.

Caguioa, also dissenting for the second time, said De Lima’s constitutional right had been violated.

“The inescapable conclusion is that the constitutional right of De Lima to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against her has been wantonly violated, and continues to be violated,” said Caguioa in his dissenting opinion.

De Lima was arrested on February 24, 2017 on allegations that she was getting drug payoffs from prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison while serving as justice secretary between 2010 to 2015.  

She has repeatedly denied any involvement, describing her detention as “political persecution.”  Being among the most toughest critics of President Rodrigo Duterte and his controversial war on drugs, supporters of De Lima think the same and have often pointed to double-standards as proof of the president’s acrimony towards her.

Though undergoing a new investigation, alleged drug suspects Peter Lim and Kerwin Espinosa had their drug cases dismissed by the DOJ in March due to lack of concrete evidence — the same basis that justices for De Lima have been pushing for her dismissal.

Three separate counts of drug charges have been filed against De Lima for which she has yet to be arraigned.

Just this month, De Lima was denied furlough by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court to attend her son Vincent Joshua De Lima Bohol’s law school graduation at San Beda College in Alabang.  Many of her supporters have seen the move again as exemplifying double standards as many government detainees have been allowed furlough to attend to family affairs.

In a message written to her son on his graduation, De Lima described the day as “one of the saddest days” of her “most unjust detention.”

“In my 465 days here, I have done my best not to ask for special favors.  Even for all this, all I asked was to be accorded the same humanitarian consideration that was shown to other high-profile detainees, who were allowed to attend their children’s graduation, their father’s birthday celebration, etc.,” wrote De Lima.

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