De Lima refuses to enter plea; eyes former P-Noy as witness

Marje Pelayo   •   February 1, 2019   •   2103

Senator Leila de Lima is flanked by guards as she exits the courthouse to return to her detention cell.

MUNTINLUPA CITY, Philippines – The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 pushed through on Friday (February 1) the arraignment of Senator Leila de Lima in relation to the drug case filed against her.

De Lima refused to enter a plea and maintained her position that the charges filed against her were all fabricated. The Court entered a not guilty plea for her instead.

The lady senator and her former aide Ronnie Dayan are accused of conspiring with convicted drug lords from inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) to trade illegal drugs when she was still Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The trial on the case will begin on February 22.

The defense revealed they have tapped former president Benigno Aquino III to take the witness stand.

His testimony, according to De Lima’s legal counsel, is definitely vital to the case.

“Being the president, he has all the information relative to the topics ng kaso natin.  Meaning, we want present him to prove na at all times material sa kaso na ito. There was no issue or even a rumor that would involve senator De Lima sa drug trading because if he knows na mayroon talagang ganyan, he would have taken action against the secretary,” argued Atty. Boni Tacardon.

Other witnesses on the defense side would be former PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa, former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and former AFP chief of staff now DILG Secretary Eduardo Año.

“Si General Bato has been quoted several times sa newspaper na tinatakot iyong mga witnesses. Marami siyang sinabi regarding sa, itong mga inmates na ito,” Tacardon said.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution panel, meanwhile, remained confident and unfazed by the line up of big names in the defense list of witnesses.

“They will be presenting Año. They will be presenting other military officers. I don’t see any materiality. At the end of the day, we will just wait for the former president to testify,” said prosecutor Romancito Ocampo.

De Lima previously contested the credibility of the drug lords tapped as witnesses by the prosecution to testify against her.

The lady senator claims that those inmates were being pressured to speak against her, something the inmates’ lawyer denied. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Mai Bermudez)

De Lima supporters launch committee for her freedom

Maris Federez   •   August 26, 2019

Supporters of Senator Leila de Lima on Monday launched the Committee for the Freedom of Leila De Lima.

This aims to intensify the public’s awareness on the senator’s condition as a prisoner of conscience.

The lawmaker has been in detention for more than two years for illegal drug-related cases.

“One important characteristic of this committee in what’s happening is were making this a non-partisan issue, of the freedom of Sen. Leila. Any ability to participate as a senator should not be about politics,” Prof. Tony La Viña, one of the conveners, said.

The group is supported by former President Benigno Aquino III who had once been a senator himself, as well as, six former members of the Senate, like senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Rene Saguisag.

The group is appealing for De Lima to be allowed to vote on proposed bills and resolutions, attend Senate sessions and public hearings from her cell at Camp Crame in Quezon City by way of teleconferencing.

The said measure was first proposed by then-Senator Nene Pimentel during President Gloria Magapagal’s term when Senator Trillanes was in detention.

It was not, however, approved by some senators during that time.

“Kaya noong nanalo na si President Aquino nagbago ang ihip ng hangin. Suddenly gumugulong ano, pinayagan. Pero sinesetup pa lang siya noong eventually pinayagan akong makalaya at mabigyan ng amnesty. So hindi na natuloy iyong mga ganoong paraan [So when President Aquino won the elections, the situation had changed. Suddenly it was approved. But they were still setting it up when I was eventually freed and given amnesty. So it did not push through],” Trillanes said.

The former lawmakers have also expressed support for Senate Resolution 51 filed by Senators Panfilo Lacson and Franklin Drilon that seeks to allow De Lima to attend sessions thru teleconferencing.

They said there are important issues that need the opinion of the minority in which De Lima belongs.

The lady senator is facing a case of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading inside the New Bilibid Prisons while she was still the secretary of the Department of Justice. (from the report of Mai Bermudez) /mbmf

Muntinlupa court allows De Lima to visit ailing mother

Marje Pelayo   •   August 14, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court on Wednesday (August 14) granted detained Senator Leila De Lima’s motion for furlough to visit her ailing mother in Iriga City.

The Muntinlupa (RTC) Branches 205 and 206 has given De Lima 48 hours including travel time from August 14 to 15 to see her mother Norma Magistrado De Lima at the hospital and to visit their residence in Iriga City.

“PNP Chief Director Oscar Albayalde or his representative, in coordination with the Sheriff of this Court shall provide adequate personal escorts and security measures in all movements and disposition of accused De Lima,” the court order reads.

The courts said De Lima shall shoulder all expenses related the furlough and the lady senator needs to back at the PNP Custodial Center on August 16.

Senator De Lima is currently facing drug-related charges for her alleged involvement in illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her time as Justice Secretary. – MNP (with inputs from Mai Bermudez)

Senate leadership supports resolution to allow Sen. de Lima to join sessions via teleconferencing

Maris Federez   •   August 10, 2019

Senator Leila de Lima

Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed his support to the resolution filed by Senators Franklin Drilon and Panfilo Lacson to allow Senator Leila de Lima to join them in the plenary session thru teleconferencing.

Lacson said they have ready equipment for that purpose.

It is the same equipment that the Senate used during then-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s term when Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was allowed to join the Senate sessions while in detention.

Once the resolution is approved, De Lima will be able to interpellate in the plenary and file her proposed amendments on existing laws.

De Lima, however, will not be allowed to vote as Senate rules dictate that a senator must be physically present in the plenary to vote.

The lady senator, nevertheless, considered this news a welcome development.

“Great news!  Answered prayers. I’ve been longing to be given such privilege so I can more meaningfully fulfill my mandate,” she said.

De Lima’s camp said they still need to seek clearance from the Philippine National Police (PNP) for this.

Atty. Raymond Baguilat, De Lima’s counsel, said: “Ang rules ng PNP regarding sa mga tao sa custodial ayun nga, bawal ang electronic gadget. So, lahat yan kailangan ng approval ng PNP so iaakyat yan kay Gen. Albayalde [Among the PNP’s rules regarding personalities in the custodial facility is that electronic gadgets are not allowed. So, we need the approval of the PNP and this has to be elevated to Gen. Albayalde].”

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission chairperson Dante Jimenez, however, is doubtful that this will be allowed by the court.

“I’m pretty sure the court will deny that,” Jimenez said.

The Senate Committee on Rules said that it still has to study the resolution before they present it to the plenary for the senators to deliberate and vote on. (with details from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

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