Saguisag on De Lima case: A looming mistrial of the century

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Human rights lawyer and former Senator Rene Saguisag has cried foul over Mr. Duterte’s oft-repeated statements prejudging the guilt of Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima on the trumped-up illegal drug trading charges filed against her by the government.

In an ambush interview after attending De Lima’s hearing at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 205 last Nov. 22, Saguisag called the former justice secretary’s present situation a grave injustice and looming mistrial of the century.

“To me, it’s looming to be the mistrial of the century because once a case is filed in court, we are supposed not to talk about the guilt of anyone. Pero dito walang tigil ang Pangulo. Kaya ang epekto niyan sa prosecution, testigo, mga husgado, grabe,” he said.

            A fellow lawyer and fellow Bedan of De Lima, Saguisag attended the hearing before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205 to express support  and encouragement for the Senator, who recently marked her 1,000th day of unjust detention last Nov. 20.

On De Lima’s 1,000th day in unjust detention, it may be recalled that Mr. Duterte accused the Senator anew of benefitting from the proceeds of the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) and allegedly using the drug money for her senatorial campaign in 2016, an accusation she has long denied.

The government, which has relied mostly on dubious testimonies of convicted inmates to file drug charges against De Lima, has not produced any physical evidence that will prove her involvement in the illegal drugs.

“Yung mga kaso, mga testigo, mga nakakulong, naturally may interest magsinungaling at magkaroon ng pabor. Kaya ito is a grave and gross violation of the fundamental and basic human right to a fair trial,” Saguisag said.

The former Senator maintained that Mr. Duterte should stop issuing statements prejudging De Lima’s guilt and learn to respect her right to be presumed innocent pending ruling by the courts handling her drug cases.

Digong should stop commenting on it. [T]he amount of prejudicial, pervasive publicity, negative, against any accused, it could be me, it could be you, it could be anyone, aba, kapag nagsalita ang Pangulo na may kasalanan ako, sino pang kokontra sa pulis, sino pang kokontrang piskal, sinong kokontrang huwes?” he asked.

Echoing the same point, De Lima, in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 652, said Mr. Duterte’s public comments about her supposed involvement in illegal drugs, dating back to as early as 2016, could be a strong cause for mistrial.

“Doesn’t Mr. Duterte realize that his many public statements since August 0f 2016, all documented by media, which prejudge my guilt, are a veritable strong cause for a mistrial?” she asked.

“A farcical trial fueled by this President’s lies and vindictiveness borne out of deep-seated personal hatred and prejudice. That’s what it is! Sadly, our court system remains insensitive to this travesty of justice,” she added.

An outspoken critic of Mr. Duterte, De Lima has been detained since Feb. 24, 2017 on obviously trumped-up drug charges based mostly on false testimonies of convicted criminals as a result of her courage in speaking out against the malevolent policies of the Duterte administration. (30)

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