MANILA (UPDATE)— Former Senator Leila de Lima remains hopeful she will achieve justice, according to her lawyers on Wednesday as they disclose their intention to appeal the decision of a Muntinlupa court to deny her bail petition.
“Di siya nawawalan ng pag-asa na makakamit niya ang hustisya. Mananalo siya dito sa kaniyang kasong ito... Siya ay naniniwala na siya ay tama, at wala siyang kasalanan, at siya ay bibigyan ng walang sala, eventually," Atty. Rico Domingo, one of De Lima's counsels, told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
"Maghahain po ang Defense team ng Motion for Reconsideration. Umaasa tayo na sa ating MR, makikita ng Korte ang posisyon namin na hindi kailanman magiging katanggap-tanggap o maaaring pagkatiwalaan ang testimonya ng mga convicted criminals, lalo pa kung may galit sila sa akusado na kanilang pinararatangan," Atty. Boni Tacardon, another counsel of the detained ex-lawmaker, said in a statement.
Tacardon said their camp did not expect the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256 to deny De Lima's bail petition in connection with her case involving Bilibid convicts who accused her of running the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when she was Justice Secretary.
"Ikinalulungkot po natin na hindi pinahintulutan ng Korte ang inihain na petition for bail ni Senator Leila de Lima," he said.
Domingo said that the former senator's camp firmly believes they have good grounds to pursue De Lima's bail.
"The burden of proof here is the prosecution's ... Walang kalaman-laman ang sinasabi nila. Puro mga hearsay, puro mga walang kredibilidad, puro kwento," he said.
Domingo pointed out that De Lima had already been acquitted by the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading "on the ground of reasonable doubt".
Another drug case against her was junked by another Muntinlupa court in 2021.
De Lima had denied the allegation of the Bilibid convicts and assailed the credibility of government witnesses in her case at Muntinlupa RTC Br. 256.
In a 35-page order, Muntinlupa RTC 256 Judge Romeo Buenaventura said that based on a "careful review of the totality of prosecution’s evidence, the Court is convinced that the evidence of guilt against all the above-named accused for the crime of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading is strong."
A bail petition in capital or "non-bailable" offenses such as conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading is granted only if the accused can show to the court that the evidence of guilt is not strong. But the burden of proof is on the prosecution.
But the court clarified that its ruling on the bail petition is in no way a prejudgment on the case.
"[I]n finding the evidence of guilt strong, the Court does not in any way prejudge what the final outcome of the case will be. The culpability or innocence of the accused will still be decided on the basis of all the evidence presented by the parties and only after trial on the merits of the case," it said.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan expressed its disappointment at the denial of De Lima's petition for bail.
"We cannot fathom how the court considered the evidence against De Lima 'strong,' considering these are trumped up charges using fabricated witnesses and evidence. Like the two previously dismissed drug charges against her, this case is an act of vengeance by former Pres. (Rodrigo) Duterte that does not even deserve to be heard in any court," BAYAN said in a statement.
Karapatan also questioned the Court's decision, noting that the witnesses have already recanted their testimonies against De Lima.
"Karapatan decries the denial of former Sen. Leila de Lima’s petition for bail at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256, as yet another form of injustice against de Lima, six years into her imprisonment for trumped-up drug charges," it said.
"In many of the other cases she faced, prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimonies, citing coercion by government authorities. We have no doubt that in this last existing case against de Lima, the Bilibid inmates who accused her of running the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prisons are similarly compromised," Karapatan added.
De Lima, a vocal critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte, has been in detention since February 2017.
-- With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News.