Muntinlupa court junks 1 of 3 drug charges vs. De Lima

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 17) — A Muntinlupa court has dismissed one of the three drug charges filed against detained Senator Leila De Lima.

The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 junked De Lima's drug case with co-accused Jose Adrian Dera. Dera's demurrer was denied but he was allowed to post bail.

Dera was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation in 2019 after being at-large for two years. He was supposedly De Lima's nephew who helped solicit money from convicted criminals for her election campaign in 2016.

“But no link between the two accused was proven, and thus, it cannot be concluded that they agreed to engage in illegal drug trading,” read the omnibus order.

“As such, his demurrer to evidence must be denied as conviction is still possible. He has to answer why he introduced himself as an agent or relative of De Lima to Hans Tan and to explain the money he received from the inmates,” it added.

“In this case, the probability of accused Dera being convicted of the crime charged in the Information is not that strong, thus, his petition for bail must be granted.”

However, the same court did not dismiss a separate drug case with co-accused Ronnie Dayan. De Lima's demurrer to evidence and petition for bail were both denied by the court.

Dayan was De Lima's former driver and bodyguard, whom she believes had been turned against her. Dayan claimed he also solicited money from suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa for De Lima's senatorial bid.

“The prosecution was able to establish a direct connection between the two accused who worked and were often seen together,” said the court.

The senator has to present her evidence on March 5.

De Lima has another drug case pending with Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256.

In a statement, De Lima maintained her innocence with regards to her other case with Dayan. She denied receiving any money and any involvement in the illegal drug trade.

“Wala ring napatunayang pera, ni isang kusing, na napunta sa akin mula sa bentahan ng ilegal na droga. Puro tsismis. Puro haka-haka lang,” she said.

[Translation: It has not been proven that I received money, not even one centavo, from the supposed illegal drug trade. They were all rumors, all speculations.]

“Pag-aaralan ko at ng aking mga abogado ang naging desisyon ng korte sa Criminal Case No. 165, at maghahain tayo ng motion for reconsideration,” added De Lima.

[Translation: My lawyers and I will study the court’s decision on Criminal Case No. 165, and we will file a motion for reconsideration.]

With her acquittal in one of the cases, De Lima’s legal team is hopeful that it would translate to a positive outcome in the two other cases.

“Yung pagkakabasura ng kaso na tingin namin ay malaking epekto sa mga magiging sunod na laban namin. Dahil kahit papaano, napapatunayan natin na talagang basura lang yung mga akusasyon laban kay Senator De Lima,” said Atty. Boni Tacardon, one of her counsels, during a press briefing.

[Translation: The dismissal of this case, we think, would have a huge effect on our next battles. Because at least, we have proven that the accusations against Senator de Lima are just rubbish.]

Meanwhile, another one of her lawyers, Atty. Rolly Peoto, said they will request the court to issue a subpoena to summon witnesses that would further prove De Lima’s innocence.

“Naniniwala nga kami na dun pa lang sa nalatag namin sa aming demurrer, malinaw na yung pagiging inosente ni Senator Leila De Lima, dun pa lang sa mga testimonya ng testigo mismo ng prosekusyon,” he said.

[Translation: We believe that Senator Leila de Lima’s innocence is very clear in the demurrer we filed. It’s evident even in the testimonies by the witnesses of the prosecution.]

CNN Philippines Correspondent Anjo Alimario and Multi-Platform News Writer Vince Ferreras contributed to this report