De Lima moves to junk 1 of 3 drug cases citing insufficient evidence

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 07 2021 08:05 PM

MANILA — Detained Sen. Leila de Lima has moved to dismiss one of the three illegal drugs cases filed against her citing insufficient evidence.

De Lima, through her lawyers, filed on Thursday a demurrer to evidence before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 in the case involving co-accused Jose Adrian “Jad” Dera.

“In spite of the efforts of the Prosecution to inundate the Court with numerous witnesses and voluminous irrelevant documentary evidence, the Prosecution not only failed to provide evidence of guilt beyond reasonable doubt against herein accused, it, in fact, proved that this case has absolutely nothing to do with illegal drugs,” the document read. 

“In view of the absence of evidence of guilt, it is needless to still proceed with the presentation of the defense’s evidence, and the court and the accused must both be spared from this travesty of justice,” it added.

A ruling granting De Lima’s demurrer would mean the dismissal of the drugs case against her. If denied, she would need to present witnesses and evidence in her defense.

Authorities initially accused the senator of running the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison during her time as justice secretary but subsequently amended the allegation to the claim that she allegedly conspired with Dera to commit illegal drug trading in March 2016 to fund her May 2016 senatorial candidacy. 

She placed 12th in the elections, edging out former MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino who later clenched a seat in the 2019 midterm polls.

The prosecution claimed Dera, on behalf of De Lima, demanded money and vehicles from convicted drug lord Peter Co, who in turn, allegedly traded and trafficked dangerous drugs to give De Lima, through Dera, P3 million in cash.

De Lima, a vocal administration critic, had maintained her innocence and her objection to the amended complaint, which came almost a year after her arrest in February 2017. She has been detained at the national police headquarters since.

NOT ILLEGAL DRUGS BUT KIDNAP FOR RANSOM

After presenting 21 out of the 40 intended witnesses, the prosecution, the senator said, only proved that this was not an illegal drugs case but a kidnap-for-ransom case by rogue cops who abducted Co’s niece, Sally Serrano, shortly after visiting him in Bilibid on March 25, 2016.

De Lima cited the testimonies of Co, Serrano and another convict Hans Tan to show that the money allegedly delivered to Dera was the ransom payment for Serrano.

Serrano was the last witness to testify in December last year who said she raised P3 million by borrowing money from Tan and gave it to Dera to avoid another kidnapping incident and the threat of bogus drug charges.

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The defense noted that she never mentioned De Lima in her testimony.

Co and Tan also testified that the money was intended to free Serrano, although Co claimed Dera also took 4 vehicles from him supposedly for De Lima’s candidacy. 

But during cross-examination, Co admitted he had no communication with De Lima and it was only Tan who told him that Dera was supposedly the senator’s nephew — a claim both the senator and Dera denied. 

Dera presented evidence he was a police asset to refute his alleged ties to the senator.

Both Co and Tan also denied being involved in the illegal drug trade.

“If the witnesses themselves were not engaged in illegal drugs, with whom did accused De Lima conspire to trade these forbidden substances? Were the transactions themselves – the date, time and manner – established to begin with?” De Lima’s demurrer asked.

“Where are the illegal drugs? Where is the money, if accused De Lima indeed conspired to commit the crime? How was she precisely involved, and how did she exactly receive the money from the drug trade, if any?” it added, pointing out that the prosecution could not even specify what kind of substance was involved.

“No shabu, marijuana, or any controlled precursor and essential chemical was presented in court and proven to be such by the Prosecution.”

NO EVIDENCE DE LIMA RECEIVED, ACCEPTED DRUG MONEY

The defense also took the prosecution to task for failing to establish that De Lima received and accepted the money from Co as her alleged share in the illegal drug trade.

“No one testified that he personally saw, in relation to the case, anyone (a) receiving anything; and (b) giving anything to another. Surprisingly, the most important details of the case theory of the prosecution are left out for this Court to guess,” it said.

“In fact, the existence of the alleged vehicles was never proven and the Prosecution even waived the presentation of its supposed witness from the Land Transportation Office,” it added.

Government officials who testified, according to the prosecution, also cleared De Lima of any involvement in alleged drug activities:

  • Three witnesses from the Anti-Money Laundering Council testified no money was transferred to De Lima’s bank account and neither was her account involved in suspicious transactions.
     
  • Several law enforcers from the National Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Corrections and the Philippine National Police, including former CIDG chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, said De Lima’s name never cropped up in their investigations on illegal drug trading. Instead, they said De Lima successfully conducted raids against such activities.
     
  • A witness from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency who extracted information from confiscated cell phones testified the information she gathered were insufficient to establish illegal drug trading and she had no personal knowledge of De Lima’s involvement.

De Lima’s lawyers had also objected to the use of the information from the cellphones as the witness admitted the prosecutors fed her with information that the cellphones allegedly were owned by Co, accusing prosecutors of prosecutorial misconduct.

De Lima’s team dismissed the testimonies of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption president Dante Jimenez and former NBI Deputy Director Reynaldo Esmeralda as “purely hearsay or speculative” and those of other witnesses for being conflicting or tainted with ill motives.

They also claimed the court could not possibly convict De Lima without convicting Co, who is neither an accused nor a state witness.

“It is clear that the court cannot rule on the criminal liability of Mr. Co without violating its traditional duty and Mr. Co’s constitutional rights. This predicament erodes the prosecution’s case theory of an alleged conspiracy between accused De Lima and Dera, which cannot fly if the prosecution cannot prove the guilt of the drug traders whom accused De Lima and Dera allegedly conspired with,” it said.

De Lima is also set to file another demurrer to evidence in the second drugs case before the same court on Friday.

She has so far filed motions to post bail in all 3 drugs cases.

She has likewise filed a demurrer to evidence in her disobedience to summons case in a Quezon City court filed by 3 lawmakers over her alleged instructions for co-accused Ronnie Dayan not to appear before a congressional hearing.