MANILA - Detained former Senator Leila de Lima and her co-accused have been allowed to confront in person convict-witness Herbert Colanggo in the next hearing of their drug case before a Muntinlupa court.
Colanggo, convicted of robbery with homicide, finished his direct testimony on Monday and is set to be cross-examined on September 26.
De Lima’s lawyer, Boni Tacardon, told the media Monday that Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 has denied the Philippine National Police’s bid to prevent De Lima from personally attending the trial in her drug cases.
“Noong isang linggo, nagulat kami, nag-request ang PNP na 'wag na sanang dalhin si Sen. De Lima sa paglilitis ngayon at…nag-oppose kami rito dahil ito ay karapatan ng akusado na i-confront ang mga witnesses laban sa kanya,” he said.
“Ang naging dahilan ng PNP ay meron daw mga COVID, tumaas daw mga COVID cases sa PNP at hindi raw sila handa. Pero pinanindigan ng korte yung constitutional right ni Sen. De Lima na i-confront nga yung mga witnesses against her at pinayagan ni Sen. De Lima, lahat ng mga akusado na umattend, face-to-face, sa susunod na paglilitis,” he added.
Former Sen. Leila de Lima arrives at Muntinlupa RTC for another hearing in 1 of her 2 pending drug cases. Video courtesy of Office of Atty. Leila de Lima
Expected to attend next hearing are De Lima’s co-accused Ronnie Dayan and Jonel Sanchez, both of whom are her former aides.
Tacardon said they have been attending hearings through videoconference.
De Lima’s lawyer declined to provide details of Colanggo’s testimony, a continuation of his prior testimonies.
“Pag-aaralan namin nang husto 'yung naging testimonya ni Herbert Colanggo ngayon at paghahandaan namin ang cross-examination laban sa kanya,” he said.
In June, Tacardon told the media during Colanggo’s initial testimony that the convict-witness has yet to implicate De Lima in the drug cases involving former Bureau of Corrections officials accused of running the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison.
He expects however that the prosecution will present 1 more witness — murder convict Jojo Baligad — to oppose De Lima’s bail application.
De Lima has also filed a bail application in her other case pending before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 where Dayan is her co-accused.
“Yung sa kabilang case na criminal case 165, naka-schedule yan sa September 30 at inaasahan namin, inaantay namin yung desisyon ng huwes kung papayagan nyang ipatawag si Rafael Ragos sa susunod na hearing at mga reporters,” he said.
Ragos, a former Bureau of Corrections chief, had claimed he personally delivered drug money to De Lima’s residence in Parañaque in November and December 2012 but he retracted all his allegations in April this year, accusing former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II of coercing him.
Aguirre has denied the allegations.
Tacardon said Dayan’s counsel has asked the court to issue subpoenas to the media personnel who saw Ragos executing the affidavit as well as the notary public who notarized Ragos’ affidavit of desistance.
Arrested on drug charges in February 2017, De Lima has been detained at the PNP Custodial Center for more than 5 years.
One of three drug cases against her has been junked by a Muntinlupa court.
She has insisted the cases against her have been politically-motivated, having opposed former President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.