MANILA – Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has added his voice to personalities and organizations calling for the release of detained Sen. Leila de Lima.
Carpio, who had voted to oppose the continued detention of the senator when her arrest was questioned before the high court in 2017, told ANC’s Headstart Thursday the cases against her have no basis.
“As I wrote in my dissent, she should be released because the cases against her have no leg to stand on,” he said.
Carpio voted with the minority in the 9-6 Supreme Court ruling in October 2017 which upheld the arrest warrant issued against De Lima by a Muntinlupa court on drug charges.
The majority also ruled the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) has jurisdiction to hear the case.
De Lima was indicted based on testimonies of high-profile convicts who claimed she was involved in the drug trade at the national penitentiary during her time as justice chief.
She has denied the allegations, saying they were politically charged.
Calling De Lima’s continued detention “one of the grossest injustices ever perpetrated in recent memory,” Carpio, in his dissenting opinion, said the accusation of illegal drug trading against her was “blatantly a pure invention” and a “fake charge.”
“The Information glaringly does not charge the non-bailable offense of illegal trade of drugs since not a single essential element of this particular offense is alleged in the Information. What the Information actually charges is the bailable offense of direct bribery. Yet petitioner is held without bail,” he said.
“Worse, direct bribery falls under the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, not the RTC that issued the Warrant of Arrest that keeps petitioner under detention for the non-existent, non-bailable offense of illegal trade of drugs as charged in the present Information,” he added.
Joining Carpio in the dissent were then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and recently retired Francis Jardeleza.
Sereno has since been ousted in a quo warranto petition decided in May 2018 while Jardeleza and Carpio have both retired.
The drug charges against De Lima have dragged on. Department of Justice prosecutors spent months amending the information from illegal drug trading to conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading, despite De Lima’s objection.
De Lima was arraigned only in August 2018 or 18 months after she was arrested in February 2017.
Six judges have also withdrawn from handling the cases either by inhibition or retirement.
The latest was Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz who opted for early retirement in May, while Judge Juanita Guerrero of Branch 204, who issued the first arrest warrant against De Lima, voluntarily inhibited herself in January 2018.
CALLS FOR DE LIMA’S RELEASE
Several international human rights organizations and personalities have called for De Lima’s release.
Among them, 5 United States senators, some of whom managed to pass an amendment imposing a US travel ban on Philippine government officials behind her arrest.
Amnesty International considers De Lima a “prisoner of conscience.”
But Malacañang has consistently rejected these calls, calling these brazen attempts to intrude into Philippine affairs.