Not an iota of credible evidence against De Lima

By: Solita Collas-Monsod - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | October 31,2020 - 08:00 AM

Why hasn’t Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (Branch 205) Judge Liezel Aquiatan granted bail to Sen. Leila de Lima, as she was requested to do in June, and again in August this year? Is it that difficult to see that the case(s) against de Lima—Criminal Case Nos. 165 and 166—which she is both hearing (why she didn’t consolidate those cases is beyond me) have disintegrated, courtesy of the testimony of witnesses for the prosecution, mind you?

And not just the testimony of witnesses who perjured themselves, like convicted felons and officials who themselves have been associated with drugs, but from the likes of former PNP intelligence chief Benjamin Magalong (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group), from Anti-Money-Laundering Council (AMLC) financial investigator Artemio Baculi Jr., and from Krystal Caseñas, a digital forensic examiner for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Magalong testified on Feb. 22, 2019. This year, Baculi testified on Sept. 25 for Criminal Case 165, and again on Oct. 23 for Criminal Case 166. And Caseñas on Oct. 23, also for Criminal Case 166.

What did they say, in open court?

Magalong (now Baguio City mayor) testified that reports of De Lima’s alleged involvement in the National Bilibid Prison drug trade, or of any other issue about her, never crossed his desk.

AMLC investigator Baculi admitted that his investigation of people suspected to have been involved in the Bilibid drug trade showed that no money flowed from their bank accounts to either De Lima or her coaccused. (Reader, do you recall former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II saying something to the effect that he “saw” reports from the AMLC that De Lima had millions in her accounts? It made headlines. He never ever showed those reports. I wonder what he has to say now?)

And then PDEA witness Caseñas said that her examination of extracted text messages from phones confiscated from alleged drug lords at the Bilibid showed that none of them had ever mentioned De Lima in connection with any drug transaction or deposit made (or ordered to be done) inside the prison.

These are all government witnesses—all professionals, none convicted felons. Credible witnesses from the CIDG, the AMLC, the PDEA. Not an iota of credible evidence against Leila de Lima.

So I repeat: What else does Judge Aquiatan want in order to convince her to grant bail to De Lima? She should actually just dismiss the cases out of hand, and save the country and government employees time and money, paying attention to meritorious cases instead.

But perhaps I am too hard on the lady. After all, so many government officials, certainly higher-ranking than she, hemmed and hawed or outright lied, just to please President Duterte, who first accused De Lima of being the mother of all drug lords, and attacked her about 26 different times (I counted) from the time she won her Senate seat to the time she was incarcerated.

Who are these people? I have already mentioned Aguirre. There is Jose Calida. There is Sandra Cam (she was rewarded). And of course the current justice secretary, Menardo Guevarra, whose intelligence is unquestionable but whose backbone may not be.

The list goes on, with Supreme Court justices (except those who dissented) who were in such a hurry to wash their hands of De Lima’s case that in their separate decisions, they did not even agree on what she was accused of.

And finally, legislators from both chambers.

I am particularly disappointed with our senators (except Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan). Not only did they not allow De Lima to participate in their activities when she could have done so, but having been made aware that there is literally no case against her, they still apparently refuse to join Drilon, et al., in asking for her immediate release.

It goes to show: Justice in the Philippines is not only not blind, it is mostly politically partisan as well.

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TAGS: Aguirre, Baculi, Calida, Cam, Caseñas, De Lima, Judge Liezel Aquiatan, Magalong

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