Former Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Tuesday said the government could still appeal the “erroneous” grant of bail to former senator and justice secretary Leila de Lima by the lower court to the higher courts.
“Should the grant of temporary liberty is affirmed on appeal, it doesn’t mean that the accused will be automatically acquitted. The public prosecutors can introduce further evidence to make a case for conviction,” Panelo said in a statement.
CBCP, labor groups hail de Lima’s release
The Catholic Church and labor groups, meanwhile, expressed positive reactions following the temporary release of de Lima. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/11/14/judge-allows-de-lima-co-accused-to-post-bail-in-illegal-drug-case/)
“Praise God for this good news,” said Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan in a Radio Veritas report.
Meanwhile, labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) said they have been anticipating her “freedom” for several months now “but the dark powers behind De Lima’s incarceration utilized both legal means and political influence to delay her quest for temporary liberty.”
The National Labor Coalition has also supported the release of de Lima, hailing Judge Gener Gito who was behind the decision to grant bail to the accused.
The former senator was arrested in February 2017 for illegal drug charges. She was a known critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte who questioned the administration’s war on drugs.
The bail amount was set to P300,000, the same as that granted to her co-accused former Bureau of Corrections director Franklin Bucayu, former aides Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez, and alleged bagman Jose Adrian Dera.
The bail, according to the social arm of CBCP Caritas Philippines, is a “victory for the rule of law” and a reminder that even the most powerful is not above the law.
Caritas Philippines earlier said that de Lima is a victim of political persecution.
“Senator De Lima’s release is a step in the right direction. But we must do more to ensure that justice is served for all Filipinos, regardless of their social status or political affiliation,” said Caritas President Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo.
Despite the release of de Lima, David expressed dismay, questioning why the former senator was released just now after being imprisoned for several years at the custodial center in Camp Crame.
“But why only now? Why did it have to take this long for her to be granted a bail? This case has made it so obvious that something is very wrong about our justice system” said David.
According to the bishop, the case of de Lima only proves that there is something wrong in the justice system and that government officials are just neglecting it.
David is also a critic of the previous administration’s war on drugs
‘Law of karma’
Panelo added: “If however she [de Lima] is finally exonerated, she nevertheless deserves her years of detention for the wrong doing she has committed against the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, when as the then sitting Secretary of Justice, she (de Lima) defied the order of the Supreme Court by stopping the former from leaving the country for medical treatment. She may evade liability from the crime she is accused of—but she definitely can not escape the law of karma.”
If the grant of bail is based on the recantation of witnesses, Panelo said, “The court may have been oblivious on the established jurisprudence on the effect of recantation of witnesses.”
“The recanting witnesses have not proven before the court that their previous adverse testimonies on de Lima were done under threat or that they were coerced into falsely testifying before the court,” Panelo, who served during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte, said.
Moreover, even without their testimonies there is strong evidence establishing the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, he added.
Image credits: CNN Philippines