Court dismisses De Lima’s last drug case

Daphne Galvez - The Philippine Star
Court dismisses De Lima�s last drug case
Former senator Leila De Lima on January 30, 2024.
STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Former senator Leila de Lima, an arch critic of the previous administration, has now been cleared of all the drug charges filed against her during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.

The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 206 yesterday granted De Lima’s demurrer to evidence on her third and last charge of conspiracy to commit drug trading.

A demurrer to evidence is filed by the defense to argue that the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence in the case and warrants a dismissal.

The granting of the demurrer means that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.

With the dismissal of the third and final drug charge, De Lima, who was temporarily out of detention after the Muntinlupa court granted her bail in November last year, is now considered completely free.

“Napakalaki ng ginhawa at saya ang nararamdaman ko ngayon (I feel so relieved and happy at the moment). With the grant of our demurrer to evidence, which is tantamount to acquittal, that means I am now completely free and vindicated. It’s very liberating,” De Lima told reporters.

She also sent a strong warning to Duterte, saying he will be the one to “pay for his crimes.”

“He must be held accountable because nothing is happening here in the Philippines. Very few are prosecuted and convicted,” the former senator said, adding that she has been helping the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the crimes against humanity case against the former president in connection with the drug war killings.

De Lima also vowed to continue the fight against injustices, oppression and violation of human rights.

Prosecutors Ramoncito Ocampo and Darwin Cañete said they would study whether they would file a motion for reconsideration on the court’s decision, but for now, De Lima can enjoy her “unmitigated freedom.”

“We are not discounting the possibility of filing proper legal remedies. We will discuss if we will file a (motion for reconsideration) or any other legal remedy that may be warranted by the circumstances,” Ocampo said.

Two of the three drug charges against De Lima over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when she was justice secretary were dismissed earlier – through demurrer of evidence in February 2021 and through lack of merit of the prosecution’s case in May last year.

The drug charges, which were filed during the Duterte administration and which De Lima has consistently claimed were trumped up and politically motivated, had put the former senator in jail for most of her term.

In the last drug charge, De Lima was accused of being complicit in the illegal drug trade inside the NBP’s maximum security compound when she was justice secretary, where she allegedly received P70 million from inmates, which she allegedly used to run for senator and win in the 2016 elections.

Several ambassadors have expressed their joy over De Lima’s acquittal, with Andreas Pfaffernoschke of Germany saying that it is a “significant victory for justice and rule of law.”

“Grateful that she can continue her vital work in advocating for truth and justice. I urge the government to quickly resolve all cases of EJK (extrajudicial killings) and bring perpetrators to justice!” Pfaffernoschke said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

European Union Ambassador Luc Véron said the EU “applauds and stands alongside this verdict for justice and human rights.”

As she regained her freedom, De Lima said she is contemplating going back to practicing law in a “limited capacity” and will also help the Liberal Party, where she serves as spokesperson.

She added that she has no plans yet to run for senator in the midterm elections next year.


Apart from the drug charge, De Lima has also been cleared by a Quezon City court in her two disobedience cases.

QC RTC Branch 76 issued an order dismissing the disobedience to summons case against De Lima and her co-accused Ronnie Dayan, her former driver.

The disobedience cases stemmed from the allegation that De Lima induced Dayan to ignore the subpoena issued by the House of Representatives when it launched an inquiry into the drug allegations in 2016, led by then Oriental Mindoro second district representative Reynaldo Umali.

The congressional hearings resulted in the criminal cases. — Sheila Crisostomo

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