MANILA — Lawyers of detained former senator Leila de Lima are studying whether they can seek her release based on a Supreme Court ruling that gave temporary liberty to Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, former chief-of-staff of ex-senator and now presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile.
In an interview on ABS-CBN TeleRadyo on Saturday, De Lima’s legal counsel Boni Tacardon said their team welcomes the high court’s decision to grant Reyes’ petition for a writ of habeas corpus, noting that they could also come up with the same legal steps.
“Natutuwa kami rito at, in fact, we congratulate po si Atty. Gigi Reyes sa kanyang tagumpay sa Supreme Court,” said Tacardon.
“Tinitingnan po namin ‘yung applicability nito o kaya ‘yung similarity sa kaso ni Sen. Leila de Lima.”
Reyes, who was tagged in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam, was released from the Taguig City Jail Female Dormitory on Thursday “by virtue of Petition for Habeas Corpus granted in a resolution dated 17 January 2023” by the First Division of the Supreme Court.
In a 19-page resolution, the SC said Reyes’ nine-year confinement has “become oppressive thus infringing upon her right to liberty.”
“The grant of the writ of habeas corpus does not entail determination of the principal case. What is secured is merely the petitioner's provisional liberty due to vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays in trial,” the resolution said.
While their camp is looking into exploring the new possible legal track, Dino De Leon, another legal counsel of de Lima, said he hopes that the pending bail motions of the former senator would have the same fate.
“We already have a pending motion for bail for Criminal Case 167 and there is only one witness left who is doing cross-examination. And then afterwards, that particular motion for bail should be submitted for resolution already," De Leon told ANC on Friday.
"In Criminal Case 165 naman, we have a pending omnibus motion which we prayed for the revival of her bail petition originally in light of the recantation of the star witness Rafael Ragos," he added.
“Sana naman, lahat kagaya ni Atty. Gigi Reyes, saka ni even former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile because we have to remember that Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was granted bail as well as humanitarian reasons and he’s not a flight risk.”
Reyes and Enrile are facing plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam wherein the former senator is accused of allegedly receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim Napoles.
Enrile was released on humanitarian grounds in 2015 despite facing non-bailable charges.
De Lima has been in jail since February 2017 over her alleged role in the illegal drugs trade. She has denied the charges and cried political persecution.
Former Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano said de Lima’s camp may invoke the SC ruling on Reyes and insist that her right to a speedy trial in her application for bail.
“Puwedeng-puwede! Puwedeng-puwede iyan,” he said.
He continued, “Ang problema dito sa kasong ito – meron tayong tinatawag na continuous trial rule. ‘Yung application for bail, kapag ang hinaharap na kaso ng isang abogado ay tungkol sa possession ng illegal drugs, eh dapat 20-30 days tapos na ‘yun eh. At kahit na sabihin mo, ‘yung paglilitis kapag drug cases, dapat three months tapos na rin ‘yun katulad ng nangyari sa anak ni Sec. Remulla. Ang problema, hindi nasusunod eh."
In a brief statement, no less than Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said that “the same reasoning [on Reyes’ petition] may apply to Sen de Lima’s case.”
Opposition senator Risa Hontiveros said the trial of de Lima should move faster as she also has the right to a speedy trial.
“The right to a speedy trial is a right that should be enjoyed by all Filipinos, including Gigi Reyes. My only hope is that this is applied equally and not by a double standard,” she said in a statement.
“Dahil kung mayroong biktima ng vexatious, capricious and oppressive na pagkapiit, wala na siguro lalala pa kay Leila de Lima.”
De Lima is a vocal critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte, who was in power from 2016 until 2022.