On ‘glorious day’ of acquittal in 2nd drug case, De Lima says freedom within reach

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
On �glorious day� of acquittal in 2nd drug case, De Lima says freedom within reach
Former Sen. Leila de Lima inside the Muntinlupa Hall of Justice as she attends the promulgation on one of two remaining drug cases against her on May 12, 2023.
Contributed photo

MANILA, Philippines — Former Sen. Leila de Lima exclaimed as she walked out of the Muntinlupa Hall of Justice that today is a “glorious day” after she scored another legal victory with her acquittal in another drug case filed against her during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

“That's already two cases down, and one more to go,” De Lima said in a statement read to the media by her lawyer, Filibon Tacardon, after the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 handed the much awaited verdict on Wednesday.

“I am, of course, happy that with this second acquittal in the three cases filed against me, my release from more than six years of persecution draws nearer,” De Lima said.

The prominent critic of Duterte and his administration’s brutal “war on drugs” thanked her supporters who joined her in her quest for freedom on charges she said were trumped up and politically-motivated.

But she said she is saddened that due to the length of her detention, there are family and friends whom she would never see again.

“Perhaps this is the harshest thing that has happened to me because of my persecution,” De Lima said in Filipino. “Still, I consider this a trial of the strength of my spirit and the depth of my faith in the Lord.”

The former senator, who served most of her term in detention after being arrested in February 2017, said that while justice won today, the battle is not yet over.

“My fight continues,” De Lima said.

‘Injustice to Filipinos too’

Her youngest brother, Vicente, also shared the hope that the former senator would be freed from detention more than six years after she was put behind bars as her drug cases were being tried.

Choking back tears as he spoke to the media, De Lima’s brother said his late wife — whose birth anniversary is the same day of the verdict — is “rejoicing up in heaven” now that his sister is close to freedom.

Vicente, who was among those in court when the verdict was read, said they erupted in cheers when they found out that De Lima and her co-accused, former aide Ronnie Dayan, were acquitted.

While he is happy with the decision, he said it still took too long for justice to be served.

“Prolonging this injustice is not only an injustice to my sister but also an injustice to the Filipino people. The Filipino people pay taxes that are paid to prosecutors who seem to be prolonging this case,” Vicente said partly in Filipino.

Three drug cases were filed against De Lima during the Duterte administration and two of these have resulted in her acquittal. Lawyers for her have applied for bail in the last drug case in the hopes that she could be released from detention.

‘Justice will be ours’

“We are hopeful that justice and truth would prevail and she would be given even just temporary liberty as she faces the last case filed by the Duterte regime,” De Lima’s lawyer Tacardon said in Filipino.

Tony La Viña, another lawyer on De Lima’s case, told reporters that they “could not imagine the judge making any other decision” especially after the government’s star witness, former Bureau of Corrections deputy director Rafael Ragos, recanted his testimony against her.

Former presidential peace adviser Teresita Quintos Deles told Philstar.com that she feels a “sense of relief” that De Lima scored another acquittal, but said it is still painful that her former colleague in the Cabinet of President Benigno Aquino III lost has lost six years of freedom so far.

Still, she said the court’s decision today on De Lima’s case sends a message.

“What we need to do is to courageously stand up,” Deles told Philstar.com in Filipino outside the Muntinlupa Hall of Justice. “Don’t waver because justice in the end will be ours.”

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