Duterte critic asks court to junk drug trafficking charges

PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

ONE OF President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s staunchest critics has asked a Muntinlupa court to dismiss drug trafficking charges against her after prosecutors allegedly failed to present evidence of her guilt.

In a 70-page motion for reconsideration, Senator Leila M. de Lima and her co-accused Ronnie P. Dayan said the court had failed to present all the facts that would have contradicted the charges.

She said prosecutors had failed to produce one credible witness against her. “Having failed to do so, the honorable court cannot be complicit in this gross miscarriage of justice by supplementing the absence of evidence with suppositions and hearsay statements,” she said.

“The price of a person’s life and liberty demands greater respect than what has thus far been accorded to the accused,” she added.

Ms. De Lima is on trial for allegedly abetting the illegal drug trade in the country’s jails when she was still Justice secretary. She was accused of extorting millions of pesos from a drug lord that she allegedly used to finance her senatorial campaign in 2016.

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She has been jailed at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since February 2017. Several witnesses against Ms. De Lima were drug convicts serving time at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.

The court earlier rejected Ms. De Lima’s plea to dismiss the case for lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, the senator urged the Justice department to charge prosecution witness Joel Capones and his 13 superiors for drug trafficking.

In a Feb. 22 letter to Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, Ms. De Lima noted that when the witness testified against her, the gang leader had admitted having trafficked illegal drugs.

He along with several drug convicts had accused the lawmaker of extorting millions of pesos in drug money. Ms. De Lima said the gang leader had no pending drug cases despite his admission.

Mr. Guevarra in a mobile phone message said he had read the letter and would “take this matter under advisement.”

The European Union Parliament earlier adopted a resolution urging the Philippines to free Ms. De Lima and look at extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

An Anti-Money Laundering Council investigator had said investigations found no money flowed from the bank accounts of the senator and her co-accused. — Bianca Angelica D. Anago

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