Minority senators press for De Lima’s release

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    MINORITY senators yesterday pressed for the immediate release from detention of Sen. Leila de Lima after two prosecution witnesses affirmed that she “did not conduct suspicious transactions that would link her” to illegal drug activities inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

    In a joint statement, Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros said the testimonies of Artemio Baculi Jr., a financial investigator of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), and Krystal Casenas, a forensic digital examiner of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, failed to establish that De Lima was ever involved in illegal drug activities in the NBP as the government had accused her.

    The senators said Baculi’s and Casenas’ statements during the hearing last Friday on the illegal drugs charges against De Lima were made under oath, “thus their representatives had no reason not to tell the truth.”

    They added the development proves the charges against the detained senator were concocted “to pin her down” as she had been very critical of the administration.

    “The fraudulently concocted evidence against Senator Leila de Lima is crumbling. This will pave the way to her eventual exoneration and long-deserved freedom. The testimonies of the financial investigator of AMLC and the digital forensic examiner of PDEA are crucial to the case and should be given weight as these affirm that Sen. De Lima did not conduct suspicious transactions that would link her to illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison,” the senators said.

    “Sen. De Lima deserves her freedom now,” they added.

    In a statement released by the camp of De Lima Friday night, defense lawyer Boni Tacardonsaid Baculi re-affirmed that no money flowed from the bank account of De Lima or her co-accused Jose Adrian Dera, which the government had claimed would have come from individuals suspected of involvement in the NBP drug trade.

    Baculi first appeared before the court on September 25 where he admitted that his investigation of people suspected to have been involved in the alleged drug trade inside the Bilibid showed that no money flowed from the bank accounts which were the subject of his investigation to either De Lima or Dera.

    Tacardon said Casenas, on the other hand, testified there were no transactions relating to illegal drugs between De Lima and Dera based on the mobile phone extraction report issued by the PDEA.

    Casenas relied on her examination of extracted text messages from phones confiscated from alleged drug lords at the NBP but none mentioned that De Lima was linked to any illegal drugs transaction.

    De Lima filed two separate and distinct motions for bail for both conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade cases last June and August, respectively, saying that the prosecution’s evidence against her is not strong which confirms her innocence of the charges.

    Judge Liezel Aquiatan has yet to rule on both motions.

    De Lima has been charged with three cases to commit drug trading which are the cause for her detention at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame since February 2017.

    Criminal Case 165 and 166 are being heard by one judge as separate cases at the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 205.

    Criminal Case 167 has been intermittently tried at Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 256 due to the repeated change in presiding judges. Hearings for this case resumed only last October 9 again under a newly designated judge.