De Lima camp dismayed over cancellation of hearing anew

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Re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima’s camp expressed dismay over the cancellation anew of her hearing in one of the two remaining trumped-up illegal drug cases filed against her before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 256 due to the failure of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) to physically bring to the court an inmate, convicted murderer Joel Capones.

Capones was supposed to be presented for continuation of cross examination as Prosecution witness but the NBP stated that they could not physically present him because of what they claimed as “high-risk security concerns.”

“They’re alleging that the transport entails security issues so they requested that the witness be presented via videoconference, but we insisted that he should be presented physically. Kindly note that prior naman, all witnesses were presented onsite, so this is the first time that they are raising security concern,” said Atty. Rolly Peoro, one of De Lima’s legal counsels.

“We and the court should be able to watch the demeanor of the witness to avoid any miscarriage of justice, so it’s very critical that the witness be presented in court, and it’s our right. All accused—that is their right to confront the witness face to face. So, the Prosecution was constrained to reset the hearing,” he said.

Asked about the Senator’s condition, Atty. Peoro said she remains high-spirited, brave and hopeful.

Si Senator Leila, tulad ng dati, palaban pa rin. She’s prepared and hopeful naman sa kaso na ‘to. Tulad ng nabanggit namin, lahat ito ay trumped-up charges lang. So, we want to see the witness face to face dahil alam namin kapag nakaharap namin sila, we can pinpoint all their mistakes and all the wrong statements in their testimonies,” he said.

De Lima, the most prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, was escorted by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) when she attended the hearing yesterday, April 25.

On the sidelines of the hearing, her supporters were able to ask the Senator for her message to the public, to which she replied: “Laban lang!”

“Gaya ng sinabi ko noon, handa akong harapin ang mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa akin, dahil alam ko ang totoo; kaya kong tingnan kahit sino, mata sa mata, at sabihin na ako ay inosente.

“Hindi gaya ng mga pekeng testigo laban sa akin, na ang iba ay pinilit, tinuruan, o binigyan lang ng pribilehiyo o reward para lang idiin ako, pero kapag sinuri naman ay maraming butas at bali-baliko ang detalye,” De Lima said in a separate statement.

Last July 9, 2021, De Lima and her lawyers filed separate criminal complaints against Capones and his 13 mayores for trading and selling illegal drugs inside the NBP.

As a witness for the Prosecution in one of De Lima’s bogus drug cases, Capones confessed in open court to packing and selling shabu with his mayores. Capones waived his right against self-incrimination before making the confession.  Yet, for reasons apparently known only to the Prosecution and the NBP, they could not produce Capones in court last April 25 to continue his testimony, which includes the opportunity for him to be subjected to further cross-examination by the defense to test the veracity of his claims, despite him being in the legal and physical custody of the DOJ.

Previously, the Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) of Muntinlupa City dismissed the criminal complaints De Lima and her lawyers filed against Capones and his gangmates.

The trial of Sen. De Lima in said case has been delayed for more than a year already, the last hearing for the taking of Capones’ testimony having taken place back in February 2021. This failure on the part of the Prosecution to present their witness further delayed it for another thirty-five (35) days, at which time De Lima would have been unjustly detained for 1922 days.

Notably, one of the three cases originally filed last 17 February 2017 was dismissed because of the Prosecution’s failure to present any evidence of the Senator’s alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade. (30)

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