MANILA — Malacañang said on Thursday President Rodrigo Duterte's critic Sen. Leila de Lima has no reason to celebrate because she remains in jail despite her acquittal in a drug case.
De Lima has been detained since February 2017 for allegedly pocketing drug payoffs from convicted crime lords when she was still justice secretary during the previous administration. She denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque pointed out the senator remains behind bars because she is facing 2 other cases. The court had dismissed one of her 3 drug cases on Wednesday.
“Bakit po siya magse-celebrate e andoon pa rin siya sa selda?” Roque said on De Lima's acquittal.
(Why would she celebrate when she is still in jail?)
“Wala po kaming reaksyon d’yan kasi nakakulong pa rin siya, at siya’y nakakulong pa rin kasi mayroon pa rin siyang 2 kaso,” he told reporters in an online briefing.
(We have no reaction to that because she is still jailed, she is still facing 2 cases.)
Video courtesy of PTV
It was not the first time Roque, a former human rights lawyer, had spoken with disdain against De Lima, former justice secretary and chair of the Commission on Human Rights.
In 2018, the senator said Roque "has bartered his dignity and reputation as a human rights lawyer in exchange for a senatorial berth in the president’s party.” Roque was supposed to run for the Senate in 2019 but withdrew for health reasons.
To De Lima's comment, Roque responded: "As I said, happy anniversary on your first year of detention. May you spend the rest of your life in jail."
A Muntinlupa City court on Wednesday had granted De Lima'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.
“To be acquitted even in just one case, in the time of Duterte, is a moral victory,” De Lima said on Wednesday.
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, her lawyer Rolly Peoro told ANC.
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."