De Lima to appeal bail denial

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 7) — The camp of former Senator Leila de Lima will ask a Muntinlupa court to reconsider its decision to deny her petition for temporary freedom.

"Hindi po natin inaasahan ang desisyong ito. Maghahain po ang Defense team ng Motion for Reconsideration. Umaasa tayo na sa ating MR, makikita ng Korte ang posisyon namin na hindi kailanman magiging katanggap-tanggap o maaaring pagkatiwalaan ang testimonya ng mga convicted criminals, lalo pa kung may galit sila sa akusado na kanilang pinararatangan,” De Lima's defense team said in a statement on Wednesday.

[Translation: We did not expect this decision. The Defense team will file a Motion for Reconsideration. We hope that in our MR, the Court will see our position that the testimony of convicted criminals will never be acceptable or can be trusted, especially if they have a grudge against the accused.]

The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256 earlier rejected the former senator's petition for bail for her remaining drug case. This means she will remain in detention despite being acquitted in two other cases.

The petition was related to a case where De Lima was accused of engaging in illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

Former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos recanted his story of De Lima’s supposed involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary.

It resulted in De Lima's acquittal on May 12 in her second drug case filed against her by the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

READ: Muntinlupa court acquits De Lima in 2nd drug case

Aside from Ragos, self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa, De Lima's former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, and another government witness Marcelo Adorco have recanted their allegations against the former senator.

The third and last drug case filed against De Lima remains pending.

The 63-year-old staunch critic of Duterte has been in detention since February 2017 on charges that as justice secretary, she benefitted from the illegal drug trade inside the Bilibid and used the money to finance her senatorial campaign in 2016.

She has consistently denied these accusations, claiming Duterte was behind the "massive demolition job" against her.

TIMELINE: De Lima's six-year struggle in prison

De Lima should have filed habeas corpus plea – SOJ

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the court's ruling on her petition should be respected.

Remulla also reiterated that the Department of Justice would not have gotten in De Lima’s way if she had filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus over her six-year detention.

"Sinabi na namin dati 'yan eh, na habeas corpus should've been put in issue at yung anim na taon in detention should've been the reason, and not the weakness of the evidence or the strength of the evidence. Kung ganoon, you preempt yourself also. You're shooting yourself on the foot," he told the media. "We would not have objected if there is petition for bail based on humanitarian grounds because after all six years na siya."

"Pero mas gusto nila magpasikat at magparinig at magpahiwatig na tingin nila kayang-kaya nila yung kaso," Remulla said.

[Translation: We have said it before, that habeas corpus should've been put in issue and the six years in detention should've been the reason, and not the weakness of the evidence or the strength of the evidence… But they would rather show off, imply and insinuate that they can easily handle the case.]

The writ of habeas corpus is a constitutional right that protects against unlawful detention.

'Prolonged injustice'

In a statement, Human Rights Watch's Carlos Conde said the denial of De Lima's bail petition "prolongs the injustice committed against her since more than six years ago."

"She has remained steadfast in her commitment to see that due process is done and this is what she gets in return," Conde added.

The Gabriela Women's Party-list also expressed disappointment over the court's decision and appealed that the "trumped-up" charges against her be dropped.

"The government cannot deny that these charges are politically motivated and that her investigations into the extrajudicial killings are the reason why she was charged with trumped-up cases," Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said in a statement.

"We strongly condemn the continued persecution of critics and opposition leaders who dare to stand up against the government's anti-poor policies," she added.