MANILA (UPDATED) — Detained Senator Leila de Lima has asked a Quezon City court to junk the disobedience to summons case filed against her by previous House leaders for supposedly advising her former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan not to attend a House probe on the alleged Bilibid drug trade.
In a demurrer to evidence filed on November 3 at the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 34, De Lima said the prosecution failed to present proof that she “induced anyone to disobey summons issued by the House Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives.”
“The evidence presented is clearly insufficient to show that [De Lima] had exerted great dominance and great influence over a person to disobey summons issued by the House of Representatives,” it said, invoking a Supreme Court case which held that “inducement’ must be more than a simple advice or counsel but must have “great dominance and great influence over the person who acts.”
De Lima pointed out it was not proven that Dayan disobeyed a summon because nothing on the record supposedly shows he received the summons in the first place.
The 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 Hannah Mae Dayan allegedly instructing her father to hide and not attend the House Committee on Justice hearing on the illegal drug trade in Bilibid in October 2016.
After more than 3 years of the trial, the prosecution managed to present only Umali and a photographer who took a photo of the supposed message of De Lima to Hannah Mae.
The defense claimed De Lima was deprived of the right to confront and cross-examine Alvarez and Fariñas as it questioned Umali’s competence to testify on the supposed messages between De Lima and Hannah Mae.
De Lima’s legal team pointed out that Umali did not have personal knowledge of the alleged act of inducement as he only heard about the supposed text messages during the House probe.
“The issue here is not what the witness Umali heard during the congressional hearing. The issue is if what witness Umali heard during the congressional hearing is true,” they said.
“Umali’s testimony is therefore plain and simple hearsay that is inadmissible to prove the truth or veracity of the allegations that he heard during the congressional hearing,” they added, going to the extent of assailing even the admissibility of the transcripts of the House hearing which Umali identified and not by its legal custodian.
They also questioned Umali’s lack of authority to file the disobedience to summons case on behalf of Congress, claiming Art. 150 of the Revised Penal Code was designed as a remedy for Congress, not for any lawmaker in his personal capacity.
The meat of De Lima’s argument however went into the alleged conversation, which her legal team said was never presented during the trial.
Instead, the prosecution presented photographer Perfecto Camero who took a photo of the supposed conversation.
De Lima’s team clarified that based on the pictures, it wasn’t even “text messages” as the criminal charge alleged, but Viber messages.
They said the pictures are inadmissible as evidence not only because they violated Hannah Mae’s privacy, but also because the prosecution failed to show that the original electronic document was unavailable to justify resort to secondary evidence.
They also noted that the photos printed did not come from the original file from Camero’s camera, but was transferred several times on different devices.
There was also no evidence, they said, that Hannah Mae showed these messages to Dayan.
“Hence, it cannot be established if the alleged failure of Ronnie Dayan to appear before Congress truly resulted from the alleged conversation, or simply because Ronnie Dayan never received any summons at all, considering that the Prosecution has failed to prove that, in the first place, any congressional summons was properly served on Ronnie Dayan,” they said.
De Lima, in June, also filed a motion to dismiss the case alleging violation of her constitutional right to speedy trial, but the court denied it in July.
Disobedience to summons carries a maximum penalty of up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine of up to P200,000.
De Lima’s demurrer comes amid her renewed push to prove her innocence.
She recently filed bail petitions in 2 of 3 of her drug cases, and her lawyer Boni Tacardon in October said officials from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Anti-Money Laundering Council cleared her of involvement in the alleged illegal drugs trade in the Bilibid.
AMLC’s Artemio Baculi told a Muntinlupa court in September that there were no funds that went into the bank accounts of De Lima and her co-accused Jose Adrian Dera.
PDEA’s Kristal Caseñas, for her part, said on the witness stand in October there were no illegal drug trade transactions between Dera and De Lima, based on the cellphone extraction report.
The opposition senator, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested in February 2017 over alleged drug charges. She is facing 3 drug charges in 2 Muntinlupa courts, and is detained inside the Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City.
De Lima is a former election lawyer and chair of the Commission on Human Rights.