De Lima case: Let the court decide

The foiled attempt by three detained suspected members of the dreaded kidnap for ransom gang Abu Sayyaf at the PNP detention center in Camp Crame that led to their instant death, as well as the hostage-taking of detained former Senator Leila de Lima, provided the tempting occasion for politicians to use the incidents for media mileage.

Some of them were well-meaning, expressing concern for the safety of their former colleague in the Senate, and slamming the police personnel custodians of the facility for security lapses, and rightly so.

Given that the detainees quartered thereat are facing criminal serious charges and are high-profile detainees, the failure to strictly implement detention protocols is gross neglect and dereliction of duty that should properly subject those responsible for the security breach to administrative and criminal cases.

While this columnist joins the expression of concern for the safety of the hostage-taking victim and calls for the undertaking of immediate and permanent measures to shield her from any harm or assault on her person, and place in peril her life, as she awaits the verdict of the court relative to her pending cases, it is vexingly disturbing, however, that some of the present and former lawmakers are using the incident of the hostage-taking to ‘lawyer’ and propagandize for the incarcerated former senator.

Not only do they insult the intelligence with their irresponsible narratives, they purposely peddle wrong information on the case in their desire to influence the general public into believing that the detention of their former colleague is illegal and constitutionally infirm. An opposition lady senator claims that the detained solon should have not been jailed in the first place, claiming that the charges against her are trumped-up, and her continued detention is a great injustice. Such a claim is maliciously false and bereft of legal basis.

She was given due process, to which every accused is constitutionally entitled. Specifically, she underwent a formal preliminary investigation as required by the Rules of Court. She was given the right to counsel and the opportunity to adduce evidence on her behalf. After a thorough preliminary investigation to determine the existence of probable cause, the investigating prosecutors found one and forthwith formally charged her in court.

Before the issuance of a warrant of arrest, the presiding judge of the court where the case is pending, personally examined the evidence presented before the court, evaluated it, and finding probable cause, issued the warrant for arrest.

She repeatedly expressed her innocence, accusing the Duterte administration of fabricating evidence against her to put her behind bars for her tirades against former President Rodrigo R. Duterte. Yet despite her vociferous allegation that there is no evidence against her to warrant the filing of charges, much less her deprivation of liberty, she intentionally did not file a petition for bail on the ground that the evidence is weak against her, for which she is entitled to file under the rules. Such filing would have presented an opportunity for her to show to the court at the very early stage of the proceeding that the prosecution’s evidence is not legally feasible. She could have been given temporary liberty if the prosecution failed to demonstrate during such a proceeding that its evidence against her is not strong.

In order, however, to get support and to milk every ounce of media mileage on her alleged “illegal” detention, she intentionally did not file the bail petition. Of course, that propaganda strategy paid off earning her the sympathy of the overseas media as well as the US legislators who swallowed hook, line, and sinker her claim of being a victim of political persecution and injustice. These US senators even went out of their way to visit her in jail. It is only after three years of detention that she finally filed the petition for bail which is presently being heard.

A former secretary of Justice who served for many years as a senator, even heading the Senate twice, who should know better being a lawyer, had the gall to pontificate that the evidence against her is weak following the recantation of two witnesses against her.

This former opposition senator, as a member of the bar, should know that jurisprudence teaches us that courts frown on the recantation of testimonies of witnesses being unreliable. These recanting witnesses are even subject to prosecution for perjury. Moreover, even assuming that the court allows and validates such recantation, the guilt of the accused may still be proven by other credible testimonial and documentary evidence extant on record. If this former senator sincerely believes in the innocence of his once ally in the Senate, why doesn’t he offer his legal services for free and join her legal team? That way he can truly help her. Talk is cheap.

Some call for her house arrest following her harrowing experience. All detainees must be treated equally.

Not any of them should be given VIP treatment. If she is physically, mentally, and emotionally affected as a consequence of her harrowing ordeal, then she should be confined in the hospital, where she is now.

Others are calling out to the President to release her from jail. He does not have that authority. The President can not interfere in the judicial processes, to do so is transgressing the Constitution.
The politicians and other bleeding hearts should lay off the De Lima case. Let the court do its job.
Dura lex sed lex.

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