De Lima cites 'political persecution' in SC ruling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 11) — As Senator Leila de Lima is set to appeal the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on her arrest, the detained official said she does not expect to be free anytime soon as her "prosecutors remain in power."

"The SC's majority decision tells us the extent to which 'Dutertism' has distorted reason, suppressed the truth and rejected the primacy of conscience. The decision legitimizes oppression and political persecution," the senator said in a statement Wednesday.

The Supreme Court en banc, voting 9 to 6, dismissed on Tuesday the senator's bid to void her arrest on drug charges for lack of merit.

READ: Supreme Court dismisses De Lima's petition to nullify arrest on drug charges

De Lima said her lawyers will file a motion for reconsideration.

She thanked the six magistrates who voted to grant her petition: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Alfred Benjamin Caguioa.

 

One of de Lima's counsel, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, said although they were short of two votes, the number meant "there were enough members of the court who believed in the cause."

Hilbay said it is possible for members of the Supreme Court to change their minds.

"It's a causeless activity, you just have to look at the decision of the Supreme Court, look for errors in reasoning, in logic, and try to find a way to try convince them," Hilbay told CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

In case the motion for reconsideration will not be granted, Hilbay said they are ready to go to trial since the prosecutors "know they don't have a case."

Incompatible charges

Hilbay said the cases filed against de Lima, who has been in prison since February 24, are "incompatible."

Three separate drug charges were filed against de Lima for her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison while she was Justice Secretary from 2010 to 2015.

She is currently detained without bail at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), Hilbay said, originally charged de Lima with drug trading.

"When the petition was filed, we questioned the nature of the case because how can you charge someone with trading in drugs when there's no evidence of drugs, of any transaction?" Hilbay told CNN Philippines on Wednesday.

Solicitor General Jose Calida then altered the nature of the charge, and said the case was "conspiracy to trade in drugs," since de Lima asked convicted drug lords inside the New Bilibid Prison to give her campaign funds in her senatorial bid for 2016.

"So far as I know that has never been done by government, charge anyone with conspiracy to trade in drugs, and that's the most dangerous for ordinary citizens," Hilbay said, adding that if this is the case, anyone with an affidavit can file conspiracy to trade in drugs.

The former solicitor general said instead of a drugs case, de Lima should have been charged with bribery.

"Well, look at the allegations. The allegation is that she wanted to run for the Senate and she need money to run for the Senate. For purposes of doing that, she allegedly connived with these drug dealers to provide her with funds. That is bribery, not a drugs case," Hilbay said.

He added, it would be hard to prove the drug charges.

"Number one, either trading in drugs, for which they don't have any evidence, or conspiracy to trade in drugs, which they've never done," Hilbay said.

The former solicitor general said the only evidence for the conspiracy to trade in drugs is the affidavit of the convicted drug lords who testified against de Lima, which includes Herbert Colangco and Noel Martinez.

READ: Drug lords, high-profile inmates to testify vs De Lima

However, the convicts are disqualified to testify under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

"(The witnesses are) threatening to withdraw those affidavits at the ground that they're going to be transferred. And so not only are they disqualified, their post-hearings and post oral arguments are clearly not credible," he said. "Because that means that they're only doing this for purposes of a transaction. To get a more convenient place in the Bilibid."

Question on jurisdiction

The Liberal Party, where de Lima ran under during the 2016 elections, said they regret the decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition to transfer de Lima's case from the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court to the Office of the Ombudsman.

"The issue of jurisdiction is at the heart of the case because it involves the legal authority to pass judgment on a case. We cannot have the wrong court trying and handing the fate of a case," the Liberal Party said in a statement Tuesday.

The Office of the Ombudsman, an office created by the 1987 Constitution, is mandated to act on complaints filed against officers or employees of the government, especially "high ranking government officials."