MANILA - The hearing of drug case against Sen. Leila De Lima at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court was rescheduled to May 30 because prosecution witness, New Bilibid Prison inmate Joel Capones failed to appear on court Monday.
According to De Lima’s lawyer Atty. Rolly Peoro, the court received a letter from the NBP saying the witness be presented via videoconference due to security concerns.
"(They are) alleging transport entails security issues. They requested the witness be presented via videoconference. Prior naman all witnesses were presented onsite," he said.
"This is the first time they are raising security concern. We insisted this is a non-bailable offense. Mabibigat ang allegations ng testigo. We want to see him face to face and see his demeanor," Peoro added.
Meanwhile, lead prosecutor Atty. Sonny Ocampo said both prosecution and defense were prepared for today’s hearing. However, he said the Bureau of Corrections did not bring in the witness.
De Lima’s supporters waited outside the Hall of Justice asking for the immediate release of the detained senator.
A fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, De Lima has been locked up in Camp Crame since February 2017 over what she calls politically motivated charges of narcotics trafficking.
Before her arrest on February 24, 2017, de Lima had spent a decade investigating "death squad" killings allegedly orchestrated by Duterte during his time as Davao City mayor and then in the early days of his presidency.
She conducted the probes while serving as the nation's human rights commissioner, then from 2010 to 2015 as justice secretary in the Benigno Aquino administration that preceded Duterte's.
De Lima won a Senate seat in 2016, becoming one of the few opposition voices as the populist enjoyed a landslide win.
But Duterte then accused her of running a drug trafficking ring with criminals inside the nation's biggest prison while she was justice secretary.
The senator, who is running for a second term, said as long as the courts are fair, the cases against her would be junked and those who filed it would be punished. A Muntinlupa court last year junked 1 of the 3 cases against her.