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De Lima blames it all on Rody

Macon Ramos-Araneta, Charles Dantes & Rey E. Requejo

Says she ‘can’t forgive’ yet ex-President for her years in prison

Former Senator Leila de Lima said she has yet to forgive former President Rodrigo Duterte for what she said were trumped-up, politically motivated charges against her.

“I have been praying to God to give me, grant me the grace to forgive that man (Duterte), because I am not ready to forgive him at this point,” De Lima said.

De Lima —out on bail after almost seven years in prison — said that she never lost hope while she was incacerated.

“I have to cling to hope. That’s the only thing left for you to hold on to,” she said.

“The taste of freedom is so precious, There’s no substitute for freedom, really,” she added

De Lima’s legal team is already discussing when to file cases against her political prosecutors.

“It cannot be that nobody is answerable, especially those who made a mockery of the justice system,” the senator’s spokesman, Dino de Leon, told ANC, quoting De Lima.

“Those people who authored this frame-up should be held to account. Those who are engaged in political persecution should be held to account,” he said, again quoting the senator.

Former Senate president Franklin Drilon agreed.

“I strongly asserted that those who coerced witnesses into providing false testimony should be held accountable for the unjust imprisonment of former Senator Leila De Lima,” he said.

Drilon said former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, who the former corrections bureau chief Rafael Ragos accused of coercing him to testify against De Lima, could be accountable for the crime of subornation of perjury.

“We are very happy that the rule of law has prevailed but who will answer for the sufferings of Leila De Lima for the last seven years because of invented and unwarranted charges? Drilon said.

In an interview on ANC, De Leon criticized Duterte’s former spokesman, Harry Roque, for claiming that the ex-president had nothing to do with the drug charges against De Lima.

“It is unfortunate that he is now peddling lies. He knows that these are lies, he knows that for a fact. Why does he know that for a fact? He has constantly heard Rodrigo Duterte say that ‘Leila de Lima, you are finished. Leila de Lima, you will rot in jail.’ And then all of a sudden here comes Harry Roque who used to be a defender of human rights who will claim that he has nothing to do with the cases against [De Lima],” De Leon said.

Duterte was the first to accuse De Lima of alleged links to drug syndicates by releasing an alleged “drug matrix” in 2016, which De Lima denied.

The Department of Justice, then under Aguirre, filed three separate drug cases against De Lima, accusing her of participating in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

A Muntinlupa court junked one of the three cases in February 2021.

She was then acquitted of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading in May 2023, after a Muntinlupa court said the recantation by Ragos had created reasonable doubt.

That leaves one remaining case.

De Leon said De Lima’s years-long detention was the result of “the greatest frame-up… subsidized by taxpayers’ money.”

Drilon called for a thorough examination of the procedures that led to the prosecution of De Lima and urged the Supreme Court to investigate the seven-year delay in her case.

Drilon underscored the need for amendments to the rules to prevent such delays from happening again.

Drilon explained the significance of the court granting bail, emphasizing that the denial of bail in a capital offense usually signifies strong evidence of guilt. In contrast, the grant of bail suggests that the evidence of guilt is weak, if not entirely lacking.

Drilon and De Lima both belong to the Liberal Party.

Senator Imee Marcos on Tuesday said her brother, President Marcos, had nothing to do with the case.

“Nobody can meddle in the judiciary. Let’s protect their independence,” the senator said.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who was Duterte’s police chief before he became a senator, insisted that there was a basis to file the drug charges against De Lima.

“In fact, she was charged, she was issued a warrant of arrest by a court. It was a court that issued her arrest warrant. So we cannot say there’s no basis,” Dela Rosa said in an interview on radio dzBB.

He also suggested that “the appreciation of the court” on De Lima’s case may have changed now that Rodrigo Duterte is no longer president.

He said while he didn’t agree with the court’s decision, he respected it.

The United States on Tuesday welcomed the release of De Lima on bail and urged the Philippines to resolve her remaining drug case.

In a statement, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller urged the Philippines to resolve De Lima’s remaining case “in a manner that is consistent with its international human rights obligations and commitments.”

On Monday, after almost seven years in detention, the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 206 granted bail for De Lima on the remaining drug case.

“The US welcomes former Philippine Senator Leila de Lima’s release on bail after nearly seven years in detention on politically motivated drug charges. Senator De Lima’s release follows her acquittal in two out of three cases,” Miller said, as shared by the US Embassy in a post on the social media platform X.

The former senator previously said that she has no regrets despite her long detention, adding that she will work on “complete vindication.”

“I will further work for complete vindication, because this case hasn’t yet ended. I want people to know the truth of my innocence. I want the people to know how it happened. I want people to know who was behind it,” she said.

In her remaining case, De Lima and others are accused of conspiring with each other to commit illegal drug trading by allegedly using New Bilibid Prison inmates to sell and trade illegal drugs.

All three cases were filed in February 2017.

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