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De Lima seeks inclusion of witnesses in drug case

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PHILSTAR

SENATOR LEILA M. de Lima is seeking the inclusion among the accused in her drug-related case the 13 witnesses of the prosecution against her.

In a motion dated March 1 filed before Muntinlupa City regional trial court (RTC) Branch 256, Ms. de Lima, through her legal counsel, said the convicts who were turned witnesses are “not mere witnesses” of the alleged drug transactions in the New Bilibid Prison “but rather major players and perpetrators of illegal drug trading.”

The 13 convicts are Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Noel Martinez, Reynante Diaz, Jaime Patcho, German Agojo, Hans Antonio Tan, Peter Co, Joel Capones, Vicente Sy, Rodolfo Magleo, Jojo Baligad, and Froilan Trestiza.

They are serving sentences for murder, kidnapping, homicide, robbery, and violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, among others.

Citing the Department of Justice (DoJ) Joint Resolution dated Feb. 14, 2017 which indicted Ms. de Lima over alleged conspiracy to commit drug trading in the Bilibid, the motion stated that the 13 convicts turned-witnesses are “principal characters” in the illegal drug trading inside the prison.

“In this instant case, it is submitted that the prosecution in excluding the aforesaid witness in the Information, committed a manifest disregard our rules and laws; Such action was made with grave abuse of discretion and should be set aside,” it read.

Among the grounds cited for grave abuse of discretion committed by the prosecution are that persons convicted of crimes involving “moral turpitude” are disqualified as state witness and their exclusion among the accused violates the equal protections clause “as it provides manifests partiality towards said witnesses.”

The motion also asserted Ms. de Lima’s “absolute innocence” of the accusation against her, noting that she had no participation in the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary and she has not dealt or conspired with the convicts-witnesses.

“It would be a complete travesty of justice should the Honorable Court sanction the arbitrary and wrongful exclusion from the Information of those who had actual participation in the illegal drug trade, based on their own admissions and on the very findings in the DOJ Joint Resolution,” the motion read.

Ms. de Lima has been detained for more than two years for allegedly conspiring to commit illegal drug trading inside the prison when she was still the Justice secretary.

In November 2018, she also asked the Court of Appeals to bar the 13 convicts from standing witness against her, following a lower court’s denial of her motion to disqualify them as state witnesses, claiming that “criminals convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude cannot become State Witnesses.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas





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