By Rey Panaligan
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra chided detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Wednesday for relying on foreign groups and individuals instead of availing herself of all legal remedies to gain freedom.
In the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Forum, Guevarra told De Lima, “If you believe that the charges against you are not true, then slug it out, fight it out, file a demurrer to evidence. You may want to file a petition for bail, among the so many legal remedies available to you.”
De Lima was arrested and detained in 2017 on drugs charges. That same year, the Supreme Court (SC) junked De Lima’s petition for release and the dismissal of her cases. She was arraigned by the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court in 2018 and pleaded not guilty.
On Jan. 9, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution No. 142 invoking the Global Magnitsky Act that allows the U.S. executive branch to impose sanctions, including visa and travel restrictions, on persons deemed to be human rights violators. Included in the resolution are people involved in De Lima’s arrest and detention.
Guevarra said, “What the United States senators are saying, they are saying ‘free De Lima now.’ First of all, that is against our law because trial is still ongoing. How can you release a person that is still undergoing trial? She can only be released if she gets acquitted, and if she gets convicted, only executive clemency can free her because that is life imprisonment for the offense charged.
“But if you’ll notice something, people are asking, some sectors are asking to free her, but haven’t you noticed that Senator De Lima has not even thought of filing a petition for bail?”
Guevarra had said previously that De Lima cannot blame anyone but herself for not applying for bail on her drug cases pending at the Muntinlupa City RTC.
De Lima was probably convinced that the evidence against her is strong, Guevarra said in a television interview.
“If you think that the evidence of the prosecution is weak, if you are the accused, you would probably consider filing a petition for bail, but she has not done so,” he said. “I cannot really fathom, I cannot second guess why Senator De Lima has not done so. Maybe she believes that the evidence of the prosecution is strong.”
At the Kapihan forum, Guevarra said, “If that is her position, why has she not applied for bail? Why is it that other people, even foreigners, will be asking for her freedom now, temporarily or permanently. But she herself has not applied for bail. So, what could be the reason for that? We can only guess about the possible reasons. It’s up to you to think why she hasn’t filed a petition for bail.”
Also in an earlier interview, Guevarra had said that De Lima “can only be released upon an acquittal and not at anytime upon pressure exerted by foreign politicians who do not represent the People of the Philippines.”
He pointed out that “Senator De Lima’s indictment was upheld by the Philippine Supreme Court and that she has been freely exercising all the rights of an accused in a fair and public trial.”