De Lima urges court to dismiss 3-year disobedience to summons case

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 01:59 PM

Senator Leila De Lima waves to the crowd after attending a hearing on drug charges at the Muntinlupa Trial Court on June 30, 2017. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Detained Senator Leila de Lima has asked a Quezon City court to junk the disobedience to summons case filed against her by former House leaders that has been pending for 3 years.

In a motion to dismiss filed electronically on June 25, De Lima claimed her right to speedy trial and disposition of her case was violated as "the prosecution has absolutely failed to prove" her guilt.

The disobedience to summons case was filed by former House Justice Committee Chair Rey Umali, former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, and former Majority Leader Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas over De Lima's alleged message to the daughter of Ronnie Dayan, Hannah Mae, supposedly instructing Dayan to hide and not attend the House Committee on Justice hearing on the illegal drug trade in Bilibid in October 2016.

The message, which was in response to a query on what to do regarding the subpoena Dayan received, reads:

"Pakisabi sa kanya magtago lang muna s'ya...Kagagawan 'yan nila Speaker Alvarez at dikta ni Digong. Pagpipyestahan lang s'ya at kaming dalawa kapag mag-appear s'ya sa hearing na 'yan..."

According to the prosecution, the message violates Art. 150 of the Revised Penal Code for disobedience of summons. It carries a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine of up to P200,000.

De Lima has been detained also for drug charges for more than 3 years since her arrest in February 2017.

In her motion filed before Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 34, De Lima said the prosecution has repeatedly asked for extensions to present their witnesses at least 5 times and has now moved for another extension to submit the written interrogatories of one of their witnesses, Hannah Mae Dayan.

Prosecution opted to resort to written interrogatories -- formal sets of questions to be answered in writing -- because the younger Dayan is based in Pangasinan and cannot be compelled to attend the hearings in Quezon City due to the distance involved. This is called the viatory right of a witness under the Rules of Court.

But until now, prosecution has yet to submit Hannah Mae's written interrogatories, according to the motion.

Aside from motions for extension, the prosecution also had to correct the judicial affidavit of ex-Rep. Umali.

"These actions seemingly show a pattern designed to delay the trial and the disposition of the case at bar. It is clearly vexatious, capricious and oppressive as against the accused. This should be stopped because the summary nature of this case has continuously been undermined," the motion said, noting that the rule on summary procedure was supposed to govern the case.

In addition, the motion argued the prosecution has failed to prove De Lima's guilt.

The defense said that aside from Umali, the prosecution has only presented Ronnie Dayan, who invoked his right against self-incrimination, and photographer Perfecto Camero, team leader of the House photo coverage team, who took a photo of Hannah Mae's cellphone with De Lima's alleged message.

"The defense fails to establish the elements of the crime of inducement to disobey summons issued by Congress, which are: a) refusal of a person, without legal excuse, to obey summons of the Congress of the Philippines; and b) the inducement of another person for someone to disobey summons from Congress," it said.

De Lima's camp said there was no evidence that the older Dayan personally received the letter and subpoena from the House of Representatives nor that he has personal knowledge of any obligation to appear before the House.

No evidence was also presented of the SMS messages between De Lima and the older Dayan as well as between De Lima and Hannah Mae, the defense said, as the cellphone itself has not been shown in court.

While courts allow presentation of secondary evidence in case of loss or destruction of the cellphone, the prosecution did not claim the cellphone was lost or destroyed.

The QC court had previously rejected as evidence a photocopy of the photo taken by the House photographer because the secondary evidence -- the digital file on the camera -- had been deleted and was not presented in court.

"[E]ven assuming arguendo that there was any conversation between herein accused [De Lima] and Ms. Hannah Mae Dayan, the prosecutor failed to prove the existence of any influence of the alleged conversation between Ms. Hannah Mae Dayan and herein accused to the actions of Mr. Ronnie Palisoc Dayan," the motion said.

The defense also noted that Hannah Mae may not even be compelled to testify against her father under the parental and filial privilege rule which prohibits a person from testifying "against his or her parents, other direct ascendants, children or other direct descendants" except if the testimony is indispensable in a crime against that person or by one parent against the other.

"Ultimately, there is no proof of any causal relation between the alleged refusal to appear before the House of Representatives of Mr. Ronnie Palisoc Dayan and the alleged communication between herein accused and Ms. Hannah Mae Dayan. There can, thus, be no finding of inducement and a violation of Article. 150 of the Revised Penal Code.

De Lima is facing 3 other drug charges in 2 Muntinlupa courts. She has filed a motion for bail in 1 of the drug charges.

She recently asked a Muntinlupa court to reconsider its decision disallowing her to join Senate sessions through videoconferencing.