THE camp of former senator Leila de Lima vowed on Thursday to pursue all other available legal remedies to secure her immediate release following the denial of her bail application in her remaining drug case pending before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa City Branch 256.
In an interview with reporters, de Lima’s lawyer, Boni Tacardon, said they would be filing a motion for reconsideration related to the order issued by Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 Presiding Judge Romeo Buenaventura on or before Tuesday next week.
Tacardon said the defense team would be raising the issue on the credibility of witnesses in the motion for reconsideration, insisting that de Lima is in detention based on trumped-up charges.
During the interview, Tacardon also read de Lima’s official statement over the denial of her bail plea.
“The court’s denial of my bail application is most unfortunate. My lawyers will be filing a motion for reconsideration to raise the issue on the credibility of 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. Theirs are blatant lies and ludicrous stories,” de Lima said.
“I am of course disappointed 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,” she added.
Tacardon said the defense team is also seriously considering the possibility of filing a demurrer of evidence once the prosecution is done with its presentation of evidence.
In fact, Judge Buenaventura has directed the prosecution panel “to complete and terminate” its presentation of evidence this month.
The judge’s order is in compliance with the directive issued by the SC, through the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) headed by Raul Villanueva, to prioritize and decide the remaining drug case against de Lima within the period provided under OCA Circular No. 83-2023, specifically, within nine months.
The OCA took into consideration that the case has been pending for six years already.
It has also directed the trial court to provide the OCA with the update on the status of the case as soon as it has been disposed of.
Tacardon said Judge Buenaventura has given the prosecution two hearings scheduled on June 19 and June 26 to present and make its formal offer of evidence.
However, de Lima’s lawyer said there is still a pending plea from the prosecution for additional dates for its formal offer of evidence that the court has yet to act upon.
It can be recalled that last May 12, 2023, Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Presiding Judge Joseph Abraham Alcantara acquitted de Lima in her second drug case due to the prosecution’s failure to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
In February 2021, Branch 205 of the Muntinlupa RTC granted her demurrer to evidence that resulted in the dismissal of the first drug case against her on the ground of insufficiency of evidence.
In his order issued last Wednesday, Buenaventura said that after a careful review of the totality of the prosecution’s evidence, including the testimonies of several high-profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), he is convinced that the evidence of guilt against de Lima and her co-accused for the crime of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading is strong.
Aside from de Lima’s bail plea, Buenaventura also junked the petitions for bail of her co-accused, namely, Ronnie Dayan, her former security aide, former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Jesus Bucayu, Joenel Sanchez; and a certain Jose Adrian Dera.
Specifically, the prosecution charged de Lima and her co-accused of using the inmates of the NBP to sell and trade illegal drugs by means of mobile phones and other electronic devices; receiving the proceeds thereof totaling to P70 million; and thereafter, conducting a raid inside the maximum security compound of the NBP to the exclusion of accused Jaybee Sebastian, thus, allowing him to control, centralize and monopolize the drug trade inside the NBP.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, in a statement issued by its Public Information Office (PIO), said de Lima can still file a bail application anytime during the course of the trial of the case.
“The former senator can also move for her release on bail at any time during the course of trial if she deems that the prosecution evidence is weak,” the SC said, adding, “as per order of the trial court, the denial of bail is not the final adjudication of the case.”
Tacardon, however, admitted that they were surprised with the statement released by the Court considering that “it’s not everyday that the SC-Public Information Office will come up with a media advisory over a case that is not pending before the SC.”
Tacardon said de Lima was elated after learning that the SC pointed out in its press release that the trial court’s denial of her bail plea is not yet final and may still be availed of by the senator during the trial proceedings.