July 22, 2024

Former Sen. Leila de Lima, the outspoken critic of (then President) Rodrigo Duterte, was acquitted on a second charge for alleged drug- related crimes by a court of competent jurisdiction. Towards this end, she claims vindication. She asserts the crimes leveled against her are contrived and are politically motivated. She may have a valid point.
From the outset and even before the verdict was released, all circumstances indicate that de Lima was destined to be acquitted. The evidences gathered by the prosecution were wanting in moral and factual certainty.
Save for the lawyers who were allied with her accuser(s), those with knowledge of the law were unanimous in saying the government’s case against her is weak and is incapable of meeting the quantum of evidence to convict her.
For one, the witnesses who pointed to de Lima as having received money from the illicit trade could not present any money trail. There was no “bust money” to speak of.
In legal parlance, there was no corpus delicti (body of the crime). Neither were there credible witnesses to vouch safe the government’s case. Most of the witnesses who took the stand were drug convicts themselves who were serving life sentences and who had every reasonable opportunity to lie under oath.
Coupled with this, former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge, Rafael Ragos, the alleged “star witness” of the prosecution, retracted his testimony, which incidentally, became the sole basis of de Lima’s exoneration in the second case.
Sure, many legal analysts contend the acquittal of de Lima does not conform with established jurisprudence because as decided by the Supreme Court in the case of Carlos Jay Adlawan vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No. 197646, April 18, 2018): “Mere retraction by a witness or by complainant or his or her testimony does not necessarily vitiate the original testimony or statement, if credible.”
The general rule is that courts look with disfavor upon retractions of testimonies previously given in court. It is only where there exist special circumstances which, when coupled with desistance or retraction raise doubts as to the truth of the testimony or statement given, can a retraction be considered and upheld,” there is no denying that de Lima deserved to be acquitted.
There were three counts of violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 filed against de Lima. She was acquitted in the first due to insufficiency of evidence. Then she was acquitted in the second due to the retraction of the testimony of the prosecution’s witness. The third will not be different.
The trend will continue since the same evidence and witnesses who were called upon to testify in the first and second cases are the same for the third case. Hence, it will not be farfetched that the third case will have the same result.
Anyway, de Lima has suffered enough. She had been incarcerated for six long years. Her trial is seen as a political persecution. Even foreign dignitaries are crying for her immediate release. Perhaps, in due time, these cases against her must cease and she be granted her liberty.