De Lima tells DOJ: Prosecute 'real criminals' instead of political opponents

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 02 2022 12:56 PM | Updated as of Jan 02 2022 01:03 PM

MANILA — The recent dismissal of a drug trafficking case against Kerwin Espinosa and several others should remind the Department of Justice (DOJ) of its task to "prosecute real criminals" and stop going after political opponents, detained Sen. Leila de Lima said on Sunday.

In a dispatch from her detention cell in Camp Crame, De Lima said the DOJ, which she once headed, can only start helping convict "real drug lords" once the agency "stops wasting its energy on my selective prosecution."

"It will serve the DOJ well to remember to flex the long arm of the law more often against the real criminals, rather than the strong hand of the state against the political opposition," she said.

A Makati City court last month junked one of the government's cases against Espinosa, an alleged drug lord, and his cohorts.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he was "saddened" by the development, adding that he has ordered the filing of a motion for reconsideration with the court.

In her dispatch, De Lima said former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre used "characters such as Kerwin Espinosa" to "falsely implicate" her in the illegal drug trade, leading to her detention since February 2017.

"It didn't matter to them that the charges against them would stick as long as there's something they could use in their demolition job against me," said the lawmaker who has been a vocal critic against President Rodrigo Duterte and some of his policies. 

De Lima said she understood Guevarra's frustration over the case dismissal.

"I fully concur [with Guevarra]. But Aguirre's DOJ should have displayed the same vigor exhibited in running after me in pursuing these cases [versus] Espinosa," she said.

"With their misplaced zeal and wrongful prosecution of an innocent target, rule of law and justice suffer. An innocent suffers while the real guilty malefactors benefit therefrom."

Guevarra took over the helm of the DOJ in April 2018 after Aguirre, Duterte's classmate at the San Beda College of Law and first Justice minister, resigned.

De Lima, who was DOJ chief during the administration of the late Pres. Benigno Aquino III, has been in detention over her alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade. The lawmaker has denied the accusations and described them as politically motivated.

In February 2021, a Muntinlupa court acquitted De Lima in one of the initial three drug cases she has been facing.

She is seeking reelection this year.

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