March 2, 2024

During the pork barrel scam with Janet Lim Napoles as the primary suspect and Sen. Bong Revilla was detained at Camp Crame, I was a frequent visitor acting as his lawyer for “special concerns”.
I would bring his favorite longanisa from Baguio and together with his ka-kosa Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, we would feast on whatever is prepared for lunch or meryenda.
Now Secretary of Agriculture, Francis Tiu Laurel, was likewise a constant visitor to Revilla and that’s where we met and discovered that their family were closest to my in-laws who bailed them out during Martial Law days, but that is another story. Corny but what do you call a picture with a detainee? Cell-fie!
The “detention cell” was not actually the usual prison box but a one-bedroom with a living-dining area cottage.
Of course, this was a perk given to the detainee because of his position. Fortunately, Revilla was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan and has been elected back.
Former Sen. Leila de Lima took over the cell when she was detained on drug charges in the Bilibid under the fury of the Duterte administration who did not take lightly her investigation of the extra-judicial killings in Davao when she was Human Rights commissioner.
Under the new President, the charges against de Lima were slowly dropped after nearly seven years in detention. Laya ka na ka-kosa!
In fairness, she thanked the Marcos administration “for respecting the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.”
In a 69-page ruling, Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 206 Judge Gener Gito said the testimonies provided by the nine witnesses including the former director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group against her failed to convincingly establish a conspiracy for illegal drug trading.
A key witness, retired Supt. Jerry Valeroso had alleged that he saw P65 million in drug money inside a Chinese inmate’s kubol or makeshift dwelling. But the court emphasized that even if his claim was true, it would not constitute direct or circumstantial evidence of a shared intent among the accused to commit the alleged crime.
As for the testimonies of other witnesses, Nonito Arile, Renante Diaz, Engelberto Durano, Noel Martinez, and Joel Capones, the court said that it found a lack of substantial evidence to support the charge against de Lima.
Of course, the freedom is temporary but us practitioners, know that when bail is granted in a capital offense, the likelihood is that an acquittal is forthcoming.
De Lima could have been released earlier on humanitarian grounds but she refused because it would imply admission of guilt on her part. She was determined to prove her innocence at all costs and said she’d rather litigate and go out after a dignified legal battle.
That in a way earned her respect and became an inspiration for others wrongly accused or similarly situated. Some however could not forget what she did to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when one day she came up with trumped-up charges to have a warrant of arrest and hold departure order against the former president. Karma!
So, what gives now? Vengeance for the author of the persecution referring to Duterte. In all probability criminal charges or worse the International Criminal Court cases will be prosecuted. She will also go back to the Senate and may be a better option for the opposition as its presidential candidate.
In Criminal Law, Blackstone’s ratio says “It is better that 10 guilty persons escape than one innocent suffers.” But what happens to the tarnished image, reputation, or even dignity of one wrongly imprisoned?
Compensation at P10,000 for every year of imprisonment and surely not enough for what one goes through with the seemingly insurmountable forces of the prosecution continually pointing accusing fingers at them as the perpetrators of a terrible crime.
Their faith in their innocence must remain steadfast and unshaken. The traumatic experience and personal crisis which they face strengthens their resolve. They know that, as the wheels of justice turn, in the end they shall be vindicated. “The truth shall triumph and shall set them free.”
Meantime, Revilla yesterday has been wrongly accused of using the bus lane at EDSA for his convoy when he was in Cavite at the time.
The Metro Manila Development Authority admitted a mistake and the media-hungry officer was suspended for not issuing a citation to the name dropper. Aptly, Revilla says, “Bugbog na sa maling paratang!”