De Lima camp: Hearing postponed after prosecution failed to present witness anew
Sen. Leila De Lima to attend court trial at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 on August 16, 2019.
Office of Sen.Leila de Lima/Released

De Lima camp: Hearing postponed after prosecution failed to present witness anew

Bella Perez-Rubio ( - November 28, 2020 - 3:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — State prosecutors for the second time this week failed to present a witness in a hearing for the ongoing drug trial against detained Sen. Leila de Lima, her team said Saturday.

The prosecution was supposed to present a certain Sally Serrano, an alleged niece of drug lord convict Peter Co, as their final witness before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 on Friday but Serrano was a "no-show," Lawyer Fhillip Sawali, De Lima’s chief-of-staff, said in a statement released by the senator's office.

On Tuesday, a hearing at the Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 256 was also canceled because the Bureau of Corrections failed to bring prosecution witness, convicted murderer Engelberto Durano, to the court, her office said in a statement released the following day. The hearing was reset to December 15.

Despite the objections of De Lima's legal team, Friday's hearing was also reset to December 4, Sawali said.

"De Lima, who has been unjustly detained for almost four years now, attended the hearing via teleconferencing from her detention quarters at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City," the statement further reads.

DOJ objects to public discussion of court proceedings

In the aftermath of recent hearings in the ongoing trial against De Lima, her team has taken to publicizing key revelations such as the recanting of witness' testimony against her which the prosecution denies.

Late last month, Lawyer Boni Tarcodon, the senator's legal counsel, said officials from the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency testified that De Lima was not involved in any anomalous transactions linking her to the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

A few weeks later, in early November, Tarcadon said convicted drug lord Vincente Sy confirmed under oath that he never met or gave money to De Lima, contradicting a previous claim that he contributed to her 2016 senatorial campaign.

On November 11, the Department of Justice moved to silence De Lima's lawyers, saying it would file a petition to cite them in contempt for publicly discussing the trial proceedings.

"You are not supposed to discuss the merits of the case outside of the courts. That is not allowed," Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said in a mix of English and Filipino, claiming that De Lima's lawyers were violating the sub judice (before a judge or court) rule.

Before the pandemic and the lockdown it induced, reporters were allowed to cover De Lima's in-court trial. The Supreme Court in October allowed public access to online trial court hearings, subject to the discretion of the judge.

Malcontento also denied Tarcadon's recent revelations regarding the prosecution's witnesses and accused De Lima's legal team of cherry-picking from what transpires in trials.

De Lima in a November 16 dispatch from Crame asserted that her lawyers' updates to the media on the ongoing drug trial against her are factual. "There is no liar in our camp,” she said in Filipino. — with a report from Kristine Joy Patag

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