Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to be more forthright about the strong evidence of her wrongful imprisonment and political persecution she has to endure under the present Duterte administration.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte administration, argued that if there are strong evidence in her situation, it would be about the wrongful prosecution of her cases that led to her arrest and prolonged detention.
“[T]here is strong evidence, not of my guilt, but of my wrongful prosecution and imprisonment, or my persecution,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 700.
“I have questioned so many abuses of due process in my case. Some have been completely ignored and unacted upon altogether; others have been dismissed unceremoniously. Time and again, with every step, rules are being re-written and the law being twisted,” she lamented.
The lady Senator from Bicol also rebuked Guevarra for over-simplifying the Supreme Court’s decision to affirm the charges filed against her and for refusing to look at the details of the 9-6 vote of the justices then.
“What SOJ Guevarra also failed to point out is that, although nine of the 15 Supreme Court justices dismissed my petition, in truth I won in the Supreme Court because the differences in opinion of those justices, in fact, proved my point that the Information is void for being insufficient to inform me of the charges against me,” she explained.
De Lima, a former justice secretary herself, listed down what she calls the “devil of the details” of the Supreme Court decision where nine Justices, in their individual concurring opinions, failed to unite in defining the nature of the charges filed by the DOJ.
Only five Justices, namely Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Lucas Bersamin, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr., and Alexander Gesmundo, voted together to hold De Lima in continued pre-trial detention for Illegal Drug Trading.
Three Associate Justices, such as Teresita de Castro, Noel Tijam, and Diosdado Peralta, categorically stated that the offense charged is ‘”Conspiracy to Commit Drug Trading.” One other justice – Mariano del Castillo – was ambiguous in his position.
“Given such clear lack of consensus among the nine justices on the nature of the charge against me – which proves the very point of my petition! – due process dictates that the Court ought to have ordered my immediate release,” De Lima stressed.
“In fact,” she continued, “even the DOJ under Guevarra acknowledged that there was something wrong with the charges against me when they moved to amend the information against me by – lo and behold! – changing the nature of the offense.”
It can be recalled that that the Justice Department spent months amending its charges against De Lima. She earnestly fought the amendment, saying they are two different crimes.
According to her, this emboldened the government’s prosecution to claim that all they need to do is present testimonies of personalities with questionable character, including inmates who have been convicted of heinous crimes.
“I was no longer being charged with Illegal Drug Trading, but now mere “conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading”, with the convenient effect that the Prosecution only needs to present witnesses who would confess to have conspired with me,” she said.
De Lima also decried the DOJ’s “unbelievable move” when they objected her camp’s subpoena to produce the alleged bank accounts the government prosecution team keeps on citing in open court.
She also questioned the government prosecution team’s obvious delaying tactics to present an alleged Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report supposedly containing evidence that she received money from the illegal drug trade. The Prosecution, though, in one of the hearings, admitted that none of the bank accounts belongs to De Lima.
“More than three years since SOJ (Vitalliano) Aguirre claimed that they have proof, the AMLC report is still not ready. Now, we will have to wait and see and whether anyone in the AMLC will come forward and sign a false report, if at all,” she said. (30)