De Lima asserts innocence, moves for bail
On 15 June 2020,Senator Leila M. de Lima filed a Motion for Bail before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC)-Branch 205 in Criminal Case No. 17-166 for alleged conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading, which is punishable under Section 26 (b) in relation to Section 5 and Section 3 (jj) of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2012”. For more than three years and a quarter, the Senator has been in detention at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City since her arrest on 24 February 2017.
“Instead of proving her guilt, the prosecution itself provided strong evidence of accused De Lima’s innocence and the regularity of the performance of her duties as then Secretary of Justice,” De Lima emphasized in her 47-page motion.
De Lima claims that she should be allowed to post bail because the evidence of the prosecution on her guilt is not strong, using the standard laid down in the Constitution and the Rules of Court for the allowance of bail in capital offenses. The case where the motion was filed involves the allegation that De Lima supposedly demanded for money and vehicles for her 2016 senatorial campaign from NBP inmate and alleged drug lord Peter Co. The prosecution contended that the money and vehicles were asked from Co by Jose Adrian Dera on behalf of De Lima.
De Lima maintains that the evidence against her is hearsay, since Peter Co only dealt with Dera and admitted that he never met with or talked to De Lima. Co said he only dealt with Dera who is De Lima’s co-accused and who did not testify as a state witness during the hearings. De Lima, through her lawyers, told the court that the government lawyers simply did not prove anything that will link her to Co’s transaction with Dera.
De Lima’s lawyers further point out that the prosecution story is also full of holes and contradictions. While the prosecution claims that the money and vehicles given to De Lima were her alleged share in the proceeds of the drug trade, Co himself has repeated several times on the witness stand that he is not and was never engaged in the illegal drug trade. Co also claimed that the money and vehicles given to Dera were not De Lima’s share in the drug trade but was ransom paid by his niece who was kidnapped by members of Dera’s PNP anti-drugs unit, the so-called RAID unit. Police officers who sell confiscated drugs or kidnap suspected drug traders for ransom are also known as “ninja cops”. Apparently, according to Co, what happened to her niece was a “ninja cop” operation.
Co narrated on the witness stand that it was her niece who sourced the ransom money from a Chinese acquaintance. Both Co’s niece and her Chinese acquaintance were not presented as witnesses by the prosecution. Co, however, admitted that the vehicles delivered to Dera belonged to him. However, he failed to identify these vehicles, including their motor vehicle and license plate numbers. The prosecution was also not able to present the LTO registration of said vehicles to prove that they even existed.
During the hearing, the prosecution banked on being able to prove the link between Dera and De Lima, and that Dera is De Lima’s relative or staffer. However, the prosecution failed to show any relationship between the two, or that they even knew each other. De Lima maintains that she does not know Dera, while Dera claims in an affidavit and motion filed in court that he just used De Lima’s name to gain access to the drug network inside the Bilibid while working as a confidential agent of the PNP-NCRPO-RAID.
More tellingly, prosecution witnesses from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and a commercial bank uniformly testified that certain bank accounts they identified had no links to De Lima.
“Despite its numerous witnesses, the prosecution miserably failed to prove a veritable link between accused De Lima and Dera, much less the alleged conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading among De Lima, Dera, and Peter Co,” De Lima noted.
De Lima further pointed out that she should be allowed to post bail because the testimonies of the other witnesses against her have questionable probative value for being irrelevant, hearsay, incredible, biased, and self-serving, and that she is not a flight risk.
“Certainly, the granting of bail to accused De Lima will result in upholding her constitutional presumption of innocence, recognizing her right to due process, and guarantee her appearance in court for the remainder of the trial, and allow her to serve her mandate as a duly-elected senator of the country,” she said.
“It cannot be stressed enough that Accused De Lima has consistently and fervently professed her complete and unconditional innocence of the charges falsely filed against her. She was not (as she has never been) involved in the illegal drug trade. Neither has she ever obtained any benefit from the proceeds thereof,” she added.