De Lima slams Lower House bill presuming guilt of drug suspects sans evidence

Published March 5, 2021, 4:00 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday called on her Senate colleagues to reject the measure that seeks to apply the immediate presumption of guilt on some drug suspects, saying this would be patently offensive to the Bill of Rights.


De Lima is referring to House Bill No. 7814, amending the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, which lawmakers voted 188-11 to approve last Tuesday, March 2. The bill includes legal presumptions on who are to be considered as importers, financiers, protectors or coddlers of illegal drugs.

The proposed law, according to De Lima, “creates presumptions which, when uncontroverted, would allow the courts to convict the accused without the prosecution having to present evidence.” “If the laws are not just, the rule of law falls,” said De Lima, who is currently facing drug charges and detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center.

“For example, under Section 3, anyone spotted in the place where the sale, trading, marketing, dispensation, and delivery or distribution of drugs happen is presumed to be involved in these illegal operations ‘unless proven otherwise’,” she said.

The former justice secretary explained legal presumptions are a means to expedite trials by shifting the burden of proof from complainant to defendant under situations where the allegations appear to be likely correct.

In this situation, De Lima said the court makes an inference, given a set of facts, that the defendant is given the opportunity to refute by presenting evidence against it.

“While it is very useful in civil cases, mandatory presumptions have no place in criminal law. The primordial presumption that governs all others when it comes to criminal law is the presumption of innocence. Anything contrary to that is unjust, invalid and unconstitutional,” she said.

“’In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved…” the senator said citing Art. III, Sec. 14 [2] of the 1987 Constitution.

De Lima warned that if Filipinos see Congress passing unjust laws, “they will cease to follow and believe in our justice system.” “Then we would see a rise in criminality, which in turn, poses a danger to our country and our democracy,” she pointed out.

“Sa ilalim ng ating Saligang Batas, trabaho ng prosecution na magpakita ng ebidensya na gumawa ng krimen ang isang akusado. Hindi ang akusado ang kailangan magpatunay na siya ay inosente (Under our Constitution, the prosecution has the burden of presenting evidence against an accused. It is not the accused who have to prove that he/she is innocent),” she reiterated.

“Itong panukalang batas na isinusulong ng Kongreso ay labag sa ating Konstitusyon kaya hindi siya dapat maisabatas (This measure being pushed in Congress violates our Constitution, that’s why it should not be passed into law),” the former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chief emphasized.