Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima welcomed the move by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the trumped-up drug charges filed against her following the recantations of key witnesses who had linked her to the illegal drug trade.
De Lima stressed that it is the foremost task of the DOJ to seek out the truth, uphold the same, and do justice to every person, including her.
“I am thankful that, as reported by the media, the DOJ is now reviewing my cases,” De Lima, the most prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said.
“It is the DOJ’s sacred mandate to ensure that no injustice is done to anyone. Just as the DOJ must ensure the prosecution and conviction of those guilty of real crimes, it must also ensure that an innocent is spared from a baseless or farcical prosecution,” she added.
DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra recently confirmed that the department is reviewing the drug charges filed against De Lima, saying he had directed state prosecutors to take a second look at the two remaining cases against the Senator.
“The prosecution needs to reassess the strength of its overall evidence in the light of the retractions of certain witnesses,” Guevarra said.
It can be noted that self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge (OIC) Rafael Ragos, and De Lima’s former aide and co-accused Ronnie Dayan have recanted their statements against De Lima.
Recently, Marcelo Adorco, a former government witness against Espinosa, also recanted his allegations against the latter in relation to illegal drug trading, and denied personally knowing De Lima. He further stated in his recantation that he had no personal knowledge about the alleged meeting of De Lima and Espinosa in Baguio City. It turns out that Adorco had long ago, recanted his allegations against the Senator by filing his counter-affidavit with the DOJ as far back in Aug. 28, 2020.
De Lima maintained that Guevarra “is morally and legally bound to look into the recent recantations of so-called ‘star witnesses’ in the House and Senate hearings”, namely, Ragos, Dayan, and Espinosa, and how they were coerced and threatened by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and other personalities into fabricating stories against her.
“These are very serious allegations which indicate a premeditated conspiracy of government officials and political allies of Duterte to manufacture testimony and evidence against me. The Secretary of Justice (SOJ) as the premiere advocate of justice and the DOJ as the premiere justice institution must always care about uncovering the truth in light of these retractions and claims of government coercion.
“In assessing or re-assessing the rest of the evidence against me, the SOJ/DOJ must go beyond a superficial review of the cold statements or affidavits of the witnesses and inquire into the very circumstances by which these were extracted. More than the now recanting witnesses, the Bilibid witnesses are most vulnerable to various insidious machinations – threats, coercion, bribery, concessions, promise of immunity even when unqualified as state witnesses, etc. Dig deeper please. I so implore,” she said.
“Neither the law nor the rules restrain the SOJ and the DOJ from acting under these premises and correct a grievous wrong, even when the cases are already with the courts,” she added.
Finally, to set the facts right, De Lima pointed out that the recantations of several witnesses against her are already part of the records of the courts hearing her two remaining cases.
“Ragos’s affidavit of recantation is now with the RTC of Muntinlupa as an attachment to our Omnibus Motion for Outright Dismissal or Bail. On the other hand, Dayan’s judicial affidavit recanting his testimony before the House Justice Committee hearing on the Bilibid drug trade has also been submitted to the same court and is in fact already the subject of cross-examination.
“Espinosa’s own counter-affidavit containing his recantation has been submitted to the DOJ in the course of the preliminary investigation of one of his remaining cases,” De Lima explained, adding that it’s not true that her camp is presenting her defense only thru media.
“Despite this travesty of justice, I remain respectful of the courts and the rule of law by participating in the judicial proceedings. But, as always, I make it a point to apprise the public through media of the case developments, in the interest of truth and transparency,” she added.
It may be recalled that the allegations against De Lima first came about through nationally and publicly televised hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives, wherein the now-recanting witnesses were first presented and made to utter their false accusations by then Secretary of Justice Aguirre himself.
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 last Feb. 17, 2021. (30)