DOJ chief Remulla explains: Acquittal ‘does not mean there’s absolutely no guilt’
MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla on Saturday explained that an acquittal of a person accused of wrongdoing “does not mean there’s absolutely no guilt.”
Remulla was asked to comment on the acquittal of Leila de Lima during a radio interview, and said the Muntinlupa City court’s ruling Friday that cleared the former senator of drug charges was “nice.”
He even stressed that the court’s verdict showed that “rule of law has prevailed” as it strengthened the independence of the country’s judiciary.
Remulla then expounded on the significance of an acquittal.
“Para malinaw, ‘pag inacquit hindi ibig sabihin wala talagang kasalanan – kundi hindi matibay ang ebidensya. Kaya may tinatawag na reasonable doubt, may pagdududa ang guilt n’ya kung puro o hindi,” he said.
(To be clear, being acquitted does not mean that there is absolutely no guilt – but that the evidence is not strong. So there is what is called reasonable doubt, there is doubt about his guilt whether it is pure or not.)
“Basta ‘pag may reasonable doubt, reason to acquit yan, pero ‘di nangangahulungang walang kasalanan talaga. ‘Yun talaga ang batas para fair,” he added.
(As long as there is reasonable doubt, that is reason to acquit, but it does not mean that there is no guilt. That’s really the law to be fair.)
Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 204’s verdict clearing de Lima of involvement in the illegal drug trade is the former senator’s second victory as he secured her first win over another drug case in 2021.
The third and remaining drug case against de Lima, who also served as chief of the Department of Justice (DOJ) prior to becoming a senator, is pending before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256.
On fairness in handling de Lima’s case, the incumbent DOJ chief said they respect the decision of the Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 204.
“Ang mahalaga dyan ang DOJ at depensa humaharap pareho sa judge, ang judge magdedesisyon. Ginagalang namin ang judges,” he said.
(The important thing is that the DOJ and defense both faced the judge, the judge will decide. We respect the judges.)
“Kung siguro nagdududa pa sila, ang judge dito appointed ni [former] President [Rodrigo] Duterte, ‘yung nagdesisyon dito. Makikita nyo talaga independent ang judiciary,” he added.
(If maybe they still have doubts, the judge here was appointed by former President Rodrigo Duterte, the one who decided here. You will see that the judiciary is really independent.)
To recall, all three drug cases against de Lima were filed in court during the administration of Duterte, her nemesis.
In the same radio interview, Remulla blasted the comments of groups, particularly mentioning Amnesty International, allegedly insinuating political motive in the court’s decision to acquit de Lima.
He said that these groups should refrain from commenting about how the Philippines’ legal system deals with de Lima’s cases.
“Hindi naman natin kailangan pakinggan ang mga ‘yun, eh may sarili silang agenda na nakikialam sila sa bansa natin hindi naman sila kailangan dito,” he stressed.
(We don’t need to listen to those people, they have their own agenda that they are interfering in our country, they are not needed here.)
After the court acquitted de Lima on May 12, Amnesty International issued a statement urging the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to hold accountable all people involved in the former senator’s arbitrary detention.
The international rights organization also reiterated that the drug cases against the ex-lawmaker were b”bogus.”
In a 2018 statement, Amnesty International said it is “deeply concerned by the continued detention of prisoner of conscience Senator Leila de Lima on politically motivated charges, based on unsubstantiated statements of people convicted for drug-related offenses.”
De Lima has been in detention at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame, Quezon City, since February 2017.
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