Muntinlupa court denies De Lima’s appeal to dismiss drug case

Published March 5, 2021, 3:01 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

A Muntinlupa court has denied the appeal of detained Sen. Leila de Lima to dismiss one of the two remaining drug cases filed against her by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2017.

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima upon her arrival at the Muntinlupa Hall of Justice Friday morning to attend a hearing in one of her drug cases (Office of Sen. De Lima/ MANILA BULLETIN)

In a two-page decision dated March 5, Presiding Judge Liezel Aquiatan of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 ruled that De Lima and co-accused Ronnie Dayan “must present their evidence to prove their innocence of the crime charged.” Under case 17-165, De Lima and Dayan are accused of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading through inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa, who gave them P10 million in two occasions in November and December, 2012.

De Lima filed a demurrer to evidence, a motion that sought to dismiss the drug case. In a decision on Feb. 17, Aquiatan denied her motion in 17-165 but granted and dismissed another drug case, 17-166, in which De Lima is also charged with conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.

“Taking into consideration the pieces of evidence of the prosecution collectively perused and analyzed, the Court is convinced that the evidence of guilt is strong,” the court ruled last Feb. 17.

In 17-166, the judge ruled, “Wherefore, the Demurrer to Evidence filed by accused Leila de Lima y Magistrado is hereby granted. The Petition for Bail is rendered moot and academic as the grant of a demurrer is tantamount to her acquittal.” De Lima filed a motion for reconsideration seeking to reverse the judge’s decision in case 17-165.

In her appeal, De Lima said, “Sampling Bias, cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual data that seem to confirm a particular position while ignoring a significant portion of data that may contradict that position.” She said the court’s decision “created an unfair impression that the witnesses all testified to a seamless and wholly credible narration of accused De Lima’s guilt when, in fact, the prosecution’s own witnesses undermined the prosecution’s own case.” In the trial, former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos, accompanied by Jovencio Ablen of the National Bureau of Investigation, claimed he delivered to De Lima’s house in Paranaque a total of P10 million: P5 million on Nov. 24, 2012 and another P5 million on Dec. 15, 2012.

“Again, we firmly and categorically state that those alleged deliveries did not take place, a pure concoction by both Ragos,” De Lima’s appeal stated.

In her latest ruling, Aquiatan explained that “it is the prosecution’s evidence that is under scrutiny when resolving a demurrer to evidence. Non-inclusion of certain portions of the testimony in the Omnibus Order does not preclude the Court to include them in the ultimate decision after hearing the version of the defense.” “It does not deprive accused De Lima the opportunity to exculpate herself if she can convincingly refute this Court’s initial findings,” the judge added.

Rolly Peoro, De Lima’s legal counsel, said, “What the court is saying is that Senator Leila de Lima needs to prove that she is innocent. We are getting ready for our defense.” De Lima attended a hearing on Friday (March 5) at the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205.