De Lima camp, prosecutors tangle over bail in NBP drug case

Published July 29, 2020, 1:38 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

Lawyers of detained Sen. Leila de Lima and government prosecutors are debating on the issue of bail, which she is seeking in one of the three drug cases filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against her before a Muntinlupa court in 2017. 

Detained Senator Leila de Lima leaves the Muntinlupa Hall of Justice after attending a hearing in June 2019 (Jonathan Hicap / MANILA BULLETIN)

De Lima, through her lawyers, filed a motion for bail last month in Case No. 17-166 being heard by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (Branch 205) on charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa when she was justice secretary.

The DOJ alleged that in March 2016, De Lima conspired with Jose Adrian Dera to commit illegal drug trading with Dera demanding P3 million and four vehicles from NBP prisoner Peter Co supposedly for her senatorial bid in the May 2016 election. 

In her motion, De Lima said she should be granted bail on the following grounds: the prosecution failed to prove the conspiracy between her and Dera, there is strong evidence of her innocence based on the testimonies of witnesses, the prosecution failed to prove illegal drug trading, testimonies of other witnesses are questionable for being hearsay, irrelevant, biased and self-serving; and that she is not a flight risk.

In their opposition, government prosecutors Ramoncito Bienvenido Ocampo Jr., Blas Antonio Tuliao, Leilia Llanes and Darwin Canete questioned why De Lima took three years before filing the motion for bail, adding that it will delay the proceedings. 

“Hence, to conduct bail hearings at this stage of the trial will not only be impractical, but likewise repetitive,” the prosecutors said. 

The prosecution believes they presented strong evidence of illegal drug trade activities in NBP and that “the inference of guilt” is strong. 

In a reply, De Lima’s camp countered the prosecution’s opposition to grant the senator bail saying “at the very outset, the Honorable Court will note that, aside from the last claim, none of the so-called ‘grounds’ cited by the Prosecution are valid grounds for opposing bail.”

Based on the Constitution, De Lima’s lawyers argued, “all persons are entitled to post bail before conviction and, as far as persons charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua are concerned, the only limitation is that the evidence of guilt against such person is strong.”

They belied the prosecution’s claim that the motion for bail is a dilatory tactic, saying, “If anyone suffered any real loss, it is the Accused who had to forego her personal liberty, and had lost time that she could never again get back.” 

“Moreover, the Prosecution did not even bother to rebut the other arguments presented by herein Accused De Lima, specifically the issues regarding the failure to prove the specific substance involved, the violation of the traditional duty of the courts and right to due process of witness Peter Co, and the status of Accused De Lima as a non-flight risk. With these implied admissions, the Prosecution did not just destroy its opposition but even supported the granting of Motion for Bail Ad Cautelam of Accused De Lima,” the defense said. 

De Lima’s camp is asking the court to grant her bail “as the evidence presented by the Prosecution is not strong” and release her from detention.