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De Lima freed on bail

Nillicent Bautista - The Philippine Star
De Lima freed on bail
SWEET FREEDOM: Former senator Leila de Lima arrives at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court for the continuation of a hearing on her remaining drug charge yesterday. The court granted her plea for bail. Inset shows De Lima stepping out of a special cell at the PNP custodial facility at Camp Crame, where she spent almost seven years in detention.
Ernie Peñaredondo, Michael Varcas

4 co-accused also granted temporary liberty

MANILA, Philippines — Nearly seven years after she was first detained, former senator Leila de Lima is finally walking out of jail after a Muntinlupa court yesterday granted her petition to post bail for her third and last drug case.

The court allowed De Lima and each of her co-accused to post bail in the amount of P300,000.

“The judge released the order, granting the petition for bail for all of the five people accused,” De Lima’s lawyer Dino de Leon told The STAR.

Detained at Camp Crame since 2017 barely six months after assuming her post in the Senate, De Lima expressed relief with the granting of bail.

“Finally, I will be set free. For years, my whole being has been crying out for freedom. For more than six long years, I’ve been praying so hard for this day to come,” she said in a chance interview.

Her co-accused are former Bureau of Corrections director Franklin Bucayo, De Lima’s former security personnel Joenel Sanchez and Jad Dera and former driver Ronnie Dayan.

“The court is of the firm view and so holds that accused De Lima, Bucayu, Dayan, Sanchez and Dera should be allowed to post bail,” the Regional Trial Court Branch 206 decision read. “The prosecution was not able to discharge its burden of establishing that the guilt of the said accused is strong.”

De Lima is currently facing the third and last drug case against her, involving her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City during her time as justice secretary. In February 2021, De Lima was acquitted in her first drug case.

Two years later, in May 2023, De Lima was acquitted in the second drug charge against her. Last Oct. 16, two state witnesses – Maj. Rodolfo Magleo and Sgt. Nonilo Arile – in her last drug case recanted their testimonies because “they are bothered by their conscience.”

Meanwhile, De Lima’s legal counsel vowed that the former senator will be released today as there is no longer any reason for her to be detained.

“We will be immediately processing her bail. And there should no longer be any reason for her not to go home to her family. She will be going home tonight,” De Leon told The STAR.De Lima’s legal counsel also said they are eyeing to file criminal charges against those involved in her imprisonment. “There will be a day of reckoning. De Lima said there will always be a day of reckoning. She will hold all of the people accountable,” he said.

For Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, the Muntinlupa RTC decision on the De Lima case shows that democracy is “alive and well” in the country. “It just shows the independence of the judiciary. They are free to decide as they please, as they deem,” he said in a press briefing.

Remulla declined to comment on whether the prosecution would still file an appeal to the decision, saying the Department of Justice is following the “principle of institutional continuity.”

The international community welcomed the grant of bail to De Lima with the expectation of the conclusion of her case in “full conformity with the laws” and “international human rights obligations.”

European Union Ambassador Luc Véron said he was very pleased by De Lima’s release as he called it a “significant step for rule of law in the Philippines.”

United States Ambassador MaryKay Carlson said: “Welcome news to see @AttyLeiladeLima approved for release at long last.“

The Canadian embassy said it “will continue to follow her situation closely, with the expectation of rapid resolution of proceedings.”

Decision welcomed

Former vice president Leni Robredo and other allies on Monday welcomed the Muntinlupa court’s decision to grant De Lima’s motion for reconsideration on her bail petition.

In a statement released on her social media accounts, Robredo described the court’s resolution as a victory not just for De Lima, but for the entire nation.

She said it again proves that there is no basis for the charges filed against the former senator.

“We have long been waiting for this day, with the belief that the truth and what is right will always prevail,” she said in Filipino, adding that all the attacks that De Lima experienced in the past seven years were due to her commitment to stand for what is right.

“Through all these years, Sen. Leila has been a source of inspiration for us. Her courage and her faith lent so many of us the resolve to continue fighting the good fight, to speak truth to power and to keep believing that the Filipino people deserve so much more,” said the former vice president.

De Lima unsuccessfully ran for reelection under Robredo’s ticket while in detention last year.

One of her fellow candidates, former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, said their Magdalo group also welcomes the release of De Lima from detention.

“This is the biggest step in her quest for justice and redemption. The whole world will now know how (former president Rodrigo) Duterte misused and abused power to persecute those who dared stand up to his murderous regime,” he said.

Even Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, who was the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief when De Lima was charged and jailed, was happy about the court decision.

Other senators – Grace Poe and Risa Hontiveros – are also happy for De Lima.

“Seven years of incarceration is long and arduous,” said Poe in Filipino. “Rich or poor, it is unfair to stay in jail for a long time because of the slow legal process.”

Dela Rosa said, “I always respect court decisions as I always observe separation of powers. I am happy for her … One soul freed from detention.”

Militant and opposition lawmakers as well as workers say the decision to grant bail to De Lima is a step in the right direction.

“Although justice delayed is justice denied, justice finally secured is still justice redeemed. This finally marks an end to her odious and oppressive incarceration which has spanned 2,453 days or from 24 February 2017 to 13 November 2023,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, president of the opposition Liberal Party, said.

Rep. France Castro of party-list ACT Teachers said that the granting of bail to De Lima was “long overdue but a welcome news nonetheless.”

“Her long detention was an injustice and we hope that those behind her unjust incarceration would be the ones who would be jailed in the near future,” the House deputy minority leader said in a statement.

Labor group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) welcomed the release of the former senator.

“Although her posting of bail is not the end of her ordeal, it is still a huge victory,” SENTRO said in a statement.

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition also hailed the granting bail to De Lima and expressed optimism that the court will rule in favor of the former senator.

“The prosecution has been unable to overcome the presumption of innocence and failed to present proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Nagkaisa noted.

For its part, Partido Manggagawa said it has long been waiting to see De Lima step out of the PNP Custodial Center. The group said the senator can now enjoy victory and prepare for her next battle.

Procedures

Following the former senator’s release on bail by Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206, the PNP has outlined the standard operating procedure that will be observed once a court order is issued.

Public information office chief Col. Jean Fajardo said at a press briefing in Camp Crame on Monday that the PNP will await the disposition of the court.

“Should a release order be issued, the PNP emphasizes its commitment to following the court’s directive,” Fajardo said in Filipino.

She added that as a standard practice, once a court order is issued, it must be officially received by the PNP.

“The proper receiving process will be conducted before any further actions are taken,” Fajardo said.

Upon receiving the court order, De Lima will undergo a series of procedures before being officially discharged. This includes a physical and medical examination to ensure her overall well-being. — Daphne Galvez, Janvic Mateo, Pia-Lee-Brago, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin, Mark Ernest Villeza

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LEILA DE LIMA

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