The bail granted to former senator Leila de Lima may have been a grave mistake, a former administration official warned yesterday.
Atty. Salvador S. Panelo, former president Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson and chief presidential legal counsel, said if the grant of bail to De Lima was based on the recantation of witnesses, the court may have been oblivious to established jurisprudence on the effect of the recantation of witnesses.
Panelo said the recanting witnesses had not proven before the court that their adverse testimonies against De Lima were done under threat or that they were coerced into falsely testifying before the court.
He added that even without their testimonies, there is strong evidence establishing the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
The government, he said, can appeal the erroneous grant of bail by the lower court before the higher courts.
Should the grant of temporary liberty be affirmed on appeal, it doesn't mean the accused will be automatically acquitted, he said, adding that added public prosecutors can introduce further evidence to make a case for conviction.
"If, however, she is finally exonerated, she nevertheless deserved her years of detention for the wrongdoing she committed against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when, as the then secretary of justice, she defied a Supreme Court order when she stopped the former from leaving the country for medical treatment," he said.
"She may evade liability from the crime she is accused of, but she definitely cannot escape the law of karma," he added.
Justice system independent
Meanwhile, Senator Imee Marcos said Tuesday that De Lima's release from detention on drug charges after nearly seven years proves the Philippine justice system is independent and working.
"The independence of the judiciary is present and true. Our court is a court of law and justice, oblivious of personalities or any political noise. Senator De Lima's bail yesterday was a testament to that," Marcos said in a statement.
De Lima, a staunch critic of former president Duterte's war on drugs, was released from jail on Monday after her petition to post bail was granted by a Muntinlupa court.
De Lima had been under detention since 2017, accused of taking payoffs from drug lords when she was justice secretary. The money was allegedly to bankroll her run for a Senate seat in 2016.
Two of the three illegal drug cases filed against her were dismissed following recantations by witnesses.
She said the grant of provisional liberty to De Lima "bolsters" the latter's position that the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction over the country.
"It bolsters my position that from the start, the ICC has no jurisdiction over any Filipino, especially PRRD," she said, referring to Duterte.
"It has no business meddling in our justice system," she added.
Duterte is accused of committing crimes against humanity before the ICC in connection with the bloody war on drugs during his term from 2016 to 2022.