Remulla says DOJ won't object to De Lima habeas corpus petition

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 20 2023 07:42 PM

MANILA — Detained former Senator Leila de Lima on Monday received an unsolicited advice from an unlikely source — file a habeas corpus petition and the Department of Justice won’t oppose it.

That suggestion coming from Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla.

“Probably they should petition for habeas corpus and explain the case to the courts. We will not object,” he told the media at the New Bilibid Prison, during the release of 416 inmates who have completed serving their sentence.

“Ako (I), I am not objecting personally to any plea that will free anybody from jail,” he added.

A writ of habeas corpus is a remedy against illegal confinement or detention and directs a public official to produce a person in court and show valid reasons for detention.

While not normally available to a detainee already facing a court case, the Supreme Court recently granted the temporary release through a writ of habeas corpus petition to lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, former chief-of-staff of ex-senator and now presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile.

The SC First Division took note of Reyes’ 9 years under detention too long, calling the delays in her trial “vexatious, capricious, and oppressive.”

Reyes and Enrile are facing plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam, where the former senator is accused of allegedly receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim Napoles. 

Enrile himself was granted bail by the Supreme Court on humanitarian grounds.

The SC ruling on Reyes’ case prompted calls on social media and from allies for the release of De Lima, noting that she has been detained for almost 6 years, with 1 of her cases already junked.

De Lima has filed a petition for bail in one of the two pending cases while a Muntinlupa court denied her petition for bail in the second case on the ground that a witness, former BuCor OIC Rafael Ragos, testified that he personally delivered what was supposedly drug money to De Lima’s house in Parañaque. 

Ragos has since retracted his allegations and De Lima’s lawyers plan to file a new petition for bail.

The latest to call for De Lima’s release and for the dropping of the charges against her is the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which recently adopted a decision, expressing “grave concern” over her continued detention 6 years after she was charged.

“The Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians…is ever more convinced that the steps taken against Ms. de Lima came in response to her vocal opposition to the way in which the then President Duterte was waging a war on drugs, including her denunciation of his alleged responsibility for extrajudicial killings; points out in this regard the inexplicable length of the criminal proceedings with no clear end in sight, the repeated violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence, the dubious choice of jurisdiction to present the accusations against her, the timing of the criminal proceedings, the amendment of the charges and the reliance on testimonies of convicted drug traffickers, who were either given favourable treatment in return, subjected to physical intimidation, including death, in prison, or have an axe to grind against Ms. de Lima as a result of her efforts to dismantle their drug trafficking operations when she was Secretary of Justice,” it said in a statement Sunday.

But Remulla said De Lima’s liberty is a matter best discussed in court.

“This is a power left to the judges to decide and even to the higher courts if need be if they want to go to the higher courts. Ang sa akin (For me), all of us have our means of defending ourselves. We have our remedies available under our legal system,” he said.

He added: “It is their right after all as a citizen detained to ask the courts why she is detained and for the courts to decide or not a grant of liberty is appropriate under the circumstances.”

De Lima is facing 2 drug charges for allegedly conspiring to run an illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison — charges which she vehemently denied, calling them political retribution for having initiated an inquiry into former President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war campaign and the Davao Death Squad killings.