Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima welcomed the Muntinlupa court’s junking of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) indirect contempt plea against her and one of her legal counsels, Atty. Filibon “Boni” Tacardon, over media statements made about the trial.
De Lima, the most prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, maintained that such petition lacked merit from the very start as it was merely meant to further silence her and her legal team.
“It was a baseless and frivolous petition from the very start, designed to further silence me and my lawyers and to prevent us from relaying to the public how the prosecution cases are crumbling before the court,” she said.
“As the decision of Judge Gener Gito states, my lawyer, Atty. Tacardon, was just reiterating, upon my imprimatur, what some prosecution witnesses stated during their cross examination. One of them was, Vicente Sy, who categorically said that he does not know me and never delivered any money to me,” she added.
In a 33-page order dated May 2, which was only released last May 27, Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206, Judge Gito granted De Lima and Tacardon’s motion to dismiss the petition to cite them in indirect contempt for lack of merit.
“What respondent Atty. Tacardon reported to the media are mere echoes of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. The court does not find malice in them nor contumacious in those statements,” Gito said.
“If respondent Atty. Tacardon cannot be punished for those statements, the same can be said true likewise for Senator De Lima. Her indictment to the case was on the basis of complicity; of she having authorized respondent Atty. Tacardon to make those statements,” he added.
It can be recalled that in filing a petition for indirect contempt against De Lima and Tacardon, the government prosecutors accused the two of violating the sub judice rule barring parties to a case from discussing the merits in public to avoid influencing the outcome of the case.
The petitioners cited two statements by Tacardon to the media stating that officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) have cleared De Lima from the illegal drug charges and that drug lord Vicente Sy admitted on the witness stand that he has never met the Senator despite previously claiming he gave P500,000 as campaign funds to her in 2012.
In junking the case, Gito said there was no “clear and present danger” in Tacardon’s statement for it to be considered contemptuous.
Gito added that Tacardon’s statements cannot even be considered sub judice because he only restated the admissions of the prosecution witnesses and his statements were “not fabricated, edited, slanted or couched in such a manner that it may influence the judge.”
The lady Senator from Bicol said she hopes the recent developments on the trumped-up drug charges against her would convince the DOJ to review her cases.
“Together with the recent retractions of Rafael Ragos, Kerwin Espinosa, and Ronnie Dayan saying that they were all just coerced by Duterte officials into testifying against me, the dismissal of this contempt charge should now convince the DOJ to review my cases once and for all and decide if there is any merit or honor at all in prosecuting an innocent person,” she said.
In a separate statement posted on Twitter, De Lima said that the court’s dismissal of the indirect contempt case filed against her and her lawyer is “a triumph of the kindred bedrock principles of free expression, transparency and the public’s right to know.”
“It is beyond cavil that my cases and developments therein are matters of public concern. If only to obviate further travesty of justice, our people and the world need to know what’s happening in my cases,” De Lima stated.
De Lima has consistently and firmly asserted her innocence in the cases filed against her. Due to lack of evidence, one of the three trumped-up drug charges against her has already been dismissed, which she called a “moral victory.” The two other cases are still pending. (30)