De Lima firm on push for bail based on merits of case, says lawyer after plea denied

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — Detained former Senator Leila de Lima is bent on seeking temporary freedom based on the merits of her case, and not merely on humanitarian grounds, her lawyer said on Thursday as they prepare to appeal the recent court ruling denying her bail petition.

Speaking to reporters in a virtual interview, Atty. Boni Tacardon said De Lima “will not accept humanitarian plea as a vehicle for her release.” He explained that while they also cited humanitarian reasons in their bail petition, these were only as an “ancillary request.”

“She is seeking vindication. She is not seeking mercy. She knows she's innocent,” Tacardon said.

The lawyer made the statements after Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said De Lima’s bid for temporary release — which the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256 rejected on Wednesday — could’ve gone smoother if her camp anchored the appeal on humanitarian concerns.

“That should've been the reason kasi nga ang challenges diyan, sinabi ko na dati ‘yan. Kung ang reason natin ay hindi merits ng case kundi humanitarian concerns and reasons, pwedeng ‘di na lumaban ang gobyerno,” Remulla said hours after the verdict was made public. “Pero mas gusto nilang magpasikat nang gano’n eh, o kaya magparinig at magpahiwatig na ang tingin nila ay kayang-kaya nila ang kaso.”

[Translation: That should’ve been the reason, because I already mentioned before the challenges there. I said if they cited humanitarian concerns and reasons instead of the merits of the case, then it’s possible that the government would not oppose her bail plea…But they chose to show off, or maybe to indirectly say that they think they can handle the case very well.]

Meanwhile, in a dispatch from Camp Crame, De Lima called the court’s denial of her bail application “most unfortunate,” but she expressed hope that it will be reversed.

“I am of course disappointed,” De Lima wrote. “But with a clean conscience, I cannot and will not lose Hope. I have to remain strong as I’m determined to attain justice and vindication.”

“My lawyers will be filing an MR (motion for reconsideration) to raise the issue on the credibility of the inmate witnesses and their testimonies anew, with the Hope that the judge is not yet closed to the perspective that their word, uncorroborated as they are by more acceptable evidence, is utterly unreliable and therefore completely not credible and unworthy of belief,” she also said.

According to Tacardon, they have until next Tuesday, June 13, to file their motion for reconsideration.

While he also remained optimistic that the Muntinlupa court will see the merits of their arguments, the lawyer said they could elevate the bail petition to the Supreme Court if needed.

What else is next?

Tacardon noted that the next hearings on De Lima’s remaining drug case are set on June 19 and 26 before the prosecution is expected to submit a formal offer of evidence.

“After that, we are seriously studying the possibility of filing a demurrer to evidence…Assuming, theoretically, if everything is on course, maybe we can file the demurrer to evidence by early July, then hopefully we can have a resolution before the end of July,” Tacardon said.

In a memorandum dated April 28, Court Administrator Raul Villanueva directed the presiding judge “to prioritize and decide” on De Lima's last case within nine months, the period provided under an earlier circular released by the Office of the Court Administrator, considering that the case has been pending for six years.

De Lima has been detained since 2017 for allegedly allowing the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary. She was also accused of financing her 2016 senatorial campaign using drug money from inmates.

The former senator, however, has maintained her innocence and accused the Duterte administration of fabricating charges against her for investigating its bloody drug war. She has so far been acquitted in two of her three drug cases.