Sen. Leila M. De Lima today asked the Supreme Court (SC) to order her release, claiming that the case filed against her by the government for trading in illegal drugs is a case of political persecution, rather than legitimate prosecution.
In her Memorandum filed with the High Court, De Lima said: “what makes [her] case special is [the government’s] willingness to use the strong arm of the law to persecute [her] simply to fulfill one man’s promise to make her rot in jail”.
She added the charges filed against her “are manifestly false and brought before a court that is manifestly without jurisdiction, simply to satisfy the lust for vengeance”.
De Lima has been at odds with President Duterte since she investigated the former Mayor of Davao City in 2009 for his alleged involvement as the mastermind of the Davao Death Squad (DDS).
As Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, she also conducted hearings on extrajudicial killings at the start of the President’s term, presenting Edgar Matobato as star witness, a self-confessed DDS hitman who claims to have witnessed the former Davao Mayor himself executing victims of the DDS.
Another witness, SPO3 Arturo Lascanas, also surfaced and testified before the Senate, tagging the President as the DDS mastermind responsible for the killing of hundreds of EJK victims in Davao City.
In her Memorandum, De Lima argued that the government’s confusion on what crime she is being jailed for only shows that she was arrested and detained on the basis of fake charges.
The former secretary was originally charged in the RTC of Muntinlupa for Consummated Trading in Dangerous Drugs. However, the Office of the Solicitor General told the Supreme Court that the crime she actually committed is mere Conspiracy to Commit Trading in Illegal Drugs.
De Lima said this violates her constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against her. “In plain terms, Petitioner was charged and arrested for the wrong crime,” she said in her Memorandum.
“She must therefore be released without delay, as every moment of confinement is unconstitutional,” she added.
De Lima also assailed the jurisdiction of the Muntinlupa court, saying that the Sandiganbayan, not a regular court, has jurisdiction over high public officials accused of committing crimes using their government positions.
She asserted that Judge Guerrero violated the Procedural Checklist in criminal cases of the Benchbook for Trial Court Judges when she fast-tracked De Lima’s warrant of arrest without first checking her court’s jurisdiction over the former Secretary of Justice’s case.
She also questioned the judge’s finding of probable cause against her based on the testimonies of convict witnesses who are disqualified to be State witnesses, thus leaving the government with no witnesses to testify against her.