De Lima lawyer calls her acquittal in drug case 'a great moral victory'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 18 2021 11:22 AM | Updated as of Feb 18 2021 11:35 AM

De Lima lawyer calls her acquittal in drug case 'a great moral victory' 1
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima waves to her supporters as she arrives at a Metropolitan Trial Court branch in Quezon City on Aug. 2, 2018. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - One of Sen. Leila de Lima's lawyers on Thursday described as a moral victory her acquittal in one of three drug cases she is facing amid the prevailing political climate.

"Today marks the 1,455 days of Sen. Leila de Lima being incarcerated... this is a great moral victory for us especially in the time of [President Rodrigo] Duterte," lawyer Rolly Peoro told ANC. 

"Moving forward, we'll see this as a morale booster and a source of inspiration to continue our legal defense of Sen. Leila de Lima."

A Muntinlupa City court on Wednesday granted the senator's demurrer to evidence in the case involving Jad Dera, who supposedly ran the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison with the detained senator. A demurrer is essentially a motion to dismiss a case due to insufficient evidence.

The same court, however, denied De Lima's demurrer and motion to post bail in the case involving her former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan. She also has a pending motion for bail in her third case.

Peoro said the prosecution failed to present strong evidence that De Lima was involved in illicit activities.

"First, there was no drug. The prosecution failed to present even 1 gram of illegal drugs in these cases," he said. "This is one for the books because I think this is the only case in the Philippines or even the whole world [of] a drug case having no drugs."

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De Lima's defense team is preparing to file a motion for reconsideration for the court's decision on her second case involving Dayan. The senator is not a flight risk and will fight the pending cases to prove her innocence to the end, Peoro said.

The lawyer also said he considers the court's decision a silver lining, saying they now have a chance to show their version of the story to the public.

"The congressional hearings were a very successful demolition job against Sen. Leila de Lima. In the court hearings, the difference now [is] we have the chance to counter, to cross examine the witnesses and to find inconsistencies and false statements from the witnesses of prosecution," Peoro added, referring to hearings at the House of Representatives on the supposed proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary.

De Lima has been detained since February 2017 for allegedly pocketing drug payoffs from convicted crime lords at the New Bilibid Prison when she was still justice secretary. 

She has decried the charges as political persecution due to her opposition to Duterte’s deadly war on drugs and her criticism of alleged human rights violations under his administration.