JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday challenged detained Sen. Leila de Lima to prove her contention that the drug-related charges filed against her are weak by filing a petition for bail or a demurrer to evidence.
Speaking before the Kapihan sa Manila forum, Guevarra said De Lima and her supporters should avail of legal remedies instead of relying on foreign individuals and groups to pressure the government into releasing her.
It will be recalled that several US senators have called on the Duterte administration to release De Lima, saying the evidence against her alleged involvement in the narcotics trade when she was still the Department of Justice chief in the previous administration was weak.
De Lima “thanked” Guevarra for giving her an advice then added: “But what you (Guevarra) forgot to mention is that after I was put under trail by publicity in the House of Representatives with then (Justice) Sec. (Vitaliano) Aguirre taking a starring role of persecutor, my defense was railroaded during the so-called preliminary investigation that the DOJ conducted.”
De Lima response was contained in a dispatch from Camp Crame, where she is detained, dated Jan. 10, 2020.
Guevarra said De Lima’s failure or refusal to file a motion to post bail before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court, which is handling the cases, is baffling considering her repeated statements that the evidence against her was weak and that she was just a victim of political retribution by Duterte.
“If you believe that the charges against you are not true, then slug it out, fight it out, file a demurrer to evidence. If you want to file a petition for bail, so there are so many legal remedies available to her,” Guevarra said.
“If that is her position, why has not she applied for bail. She herself has not applied for bail. So what could be the reason for that? We can only guess about the possible reasons.
It’s up to you to think why she hasn’t filed a petition for bail. People are asking, some sectors are asking to free her, but haven’t you noticed that Sen. De lima has not even thought of filing a petition for bail,” he added.
A demurrer to evidence is filed by a party asking the court to junk a case due to insufficiency of evidence presented by the prosecution.
Guevarra said the call of US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy for the government to release De Lima is illegal since her detention was done in consonance with the country’s criminal laws and procedures.
“How can you release a person that is still undergoing trial? She can only be released if she gets acquitted and if she gets convicted only executive clemency can free her because that is life imprisonment for the offense charge,” he said.
Durbin and Leahy had also spearheaded a move to ban Filipino officials behind De Lima’s detention from entering the US.
Guevarra said he is confident would not be implemented immediately by the US government since the State Department, which will implement, it would have to determine and convince itself whether or not there was wrongful detention or imprisonment on the part of the detained lawmaker.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had called for a speedy trial of the cases filed against De Lima, saying the delay is unfair not only to her but also to the public.
DE LIMA RESPONDS
De Lima said her camp tried to question the partiality and jurisdiction of the DOJ, saying “the charges (against her) should be investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman” since she was a government official when the alleged crime happened.
In an earlier dispatch from Camp Crame dated Jan. 9, 2020, De Lima said Guevarra exposed himself “as one of the many faces of my ongoing persecution” since he failed to correct the abuses committed by his predecessor by his continued defense of the railroading and persecution against her.
“If only Secretary Guevarra pursued real drugs with the same vigor as he does the cases against me – lining up no less than 15 ‘prosecutors’ to handle my cases, as opposed to the dismal handling of cases of Peter Lim and other real big-time drug lords—perhaps he would not only have some credibility as an SOJ (secretary of justice),” she added.
“This is not a question of whether the evidence against me is ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ under the law. When the Strong Arm of the State is being used to rewrite rules, twist the law, and present ever-evolving testimony from perjured witnesses, while at the same time withholding other evidence, the real question that needs to be asked: what Law or what Constitution are you applying and defending?” she said. – With Raymond Africa