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Court scolds De Lima, lawyer over media play

The prosecutors said Tacardon’s misinformation, which has expressed imprimatur from accused De Lima, constituted a violation of the sub judice rule

Alvin Murcia

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The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court on Friday reprimanded detained Senator Leila de Lima and her lawyers for “twisting facts or (making) inaccurate claims” about the drug case she is facing before the court.

This came after the Department of Justice (DoJ) team led by Provincial Prosecutor Ramoncito Bienvenido Ocampo Jr. asked the court to hold De Lima and lawyer Filibon Fabela Tacardon for indirect contempt and impose “upon them the maximum penalty under the law” for allegedly violating the sub judice rule.

In a 39-page petition, the prosecutors accused De Lima and her lawyer of “intentional and malicious misinformation” to the media that tends to convey to the public that prosecution’s witnesses have already cleared De Lima from illegal drug trading, “which is not true as the prosecution presented to the Court evidence to the contrary.”

The prosecutors cited the press statement made by Tacardon after the bail hearing on 23 October 2020 claiming exoneration by witnesses Artemio L. Baculi, a financial investigator from Anti-Money Laundering Council, and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency digital forensic examiner Krystal R. Casenas.

“As improperly insinuated by Atty. Tacardon, it is not true that prosecution witnesses “reaffirmed” that the accused was not involved in any suspicious transaction that would link accused De Lima to the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison. It is also not true that the said witnesses found no suspicious transactions between the senator and drug convicts,” the petition said.

“In fact, the prosecution presented to the Court evidence to the contrary as clearly pointed out in the judicial affidavit of Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Darwin Canete,” it added.

The DoJ also cited the statement made by De Lima’s lawyer that twisted the testimony of prosecution witness Vicente Sy and would want to convey to the public that “the panel’s witnesses, Atty.

Rigel Salvador, PDL (person deprived of liberty) Vicente Sy and Mr. Dennis Alfonso” have already cleared respondent De Lima from illegal drug trading, which is not true as the prosecution presented evidence to the contrary.

The prosecutors said Tacardon’s misinformation, which has expressed imprimatur from accused De Lima, constituted a violation of the sub judice rule, which restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court or obstructing the administration of justice.

The misinformation was also deemed an “affront to the lawful proceedings” of the court in their “obvious desire to attack or insult” the court’s independence, it said.

The prosecutors lamented that the statements made by De Lima and Tacardon are malicious and deliberate as De Lima’s petition for bail was to be to be submitted for resolution as the prosecution terminates its presentation of evidence on 13 November.

“Their press statements and pronouncements in different media platforms have the power to persuade, influence, intimidate, incite the perception and sentiments of their colleagues and other government officials, including the trial court judges,” they said.

The prosecutors also charged that Tacardon and De Lima “took advantage of the mainstream media to publish pronouncements intended to disinform or misinform the general public of the merits of the cases to the detriment of finding out the truth in each and every case.”

“This is an obvious attempt of respondents to condition the minds of the public and affect the Court in finally deciding on the criminal liability of the accused in its decision to these cases,” they added.

“To reiterate, respondents’ intentional and malicious misinformation to the media and the eventual publication of the same not only constitute improper conduct tending to impede, obstruct and/or degrade the administration of justice but also to threaten the People’s constitutional right to a fair trial,” they further stated.

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