MANILA - Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Monday defended her lawyers’ release of case updates on her drug cases to the media, saying these are “factual” and of “public interest.”
“What my lawyers, particularly Atty. Boni Tacardon, the spokesperson of my legal defense team, have been sharing with media and the public as to the developments in my cases, are FACTUAL,” she said in a written statement from the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, where she has been detained since 2017.
“Wala pong sinungaling sa kampo namin,” she added.
(There are no liars from our camp.)
Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento, in an online Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum last week, accused the senator’s lawyers of “picking up” certain statements of witnesses and playing them up in the media.
This, he said, violates the sub judice rule, which prohibits parties from discussing the merits of a case in public.
He warned they would be filing a petition for contempt against De Lima’s lawyers this week, a move backed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who said, he wants to avoid a media war in discussing the merits of the case in public.
Malcontento, in particular, refuted claims that several key witnesses have recanted their earlier statements when they testified on the witness stand.
“Walang nangyaring recantation,” he had said.
(There were no recantations.)
De Lima is facing 3 charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade supposedly to raise funds for her senatorial bid when she was still justice secretary.
The senator has vehemently denied the allegations.
Her lawyers recently told the media that several witnesses, including convicted drug lord Vicente Sy, officials from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), among others, supposedly admitted on the witness stand that they do not have personal knowledge about De Lima’s alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Defending her lawyers’ statements to the media, De Lima said she authorized her lawyers to “disclose to the public material and significant particulars from witnesses' declarations during the hearings, and other case developments, in the interest of truth and transparency.”
“There is no denying that the trial in my trumped-up drug cases is of high interest to the public. Hence, the public’s right to know what’s going on in these cases cannot be stifled,” she explained.
De Lima’s trial has dragged on for more than 3 years since her arrest in February 2017 with the prosecution finishing presentation of evidence against her in 1 of her 3 drug cases pending before Muntinlupa courts.
She has applied for bail in 2 of these cases.
She has moved to junk a fourth case for disobedience of summons supposedly for “inducing” her former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan not to attend a House probe on alleged illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison.
De Lima, backed by human rights groups and other foreign organizations, has called her arrest, trial and continued detention a case of political persecution.
Guevarra last week insisted it is a legal and judicial process, not political.