By Atty. Howie Calleja
“JUSTICE IS SERVED” is an idiom used when proper punishment or fair treatment is given by the legal system; and in this case when a Muntinlupa court acquitted former senator Leila de Lima in one of her remaining drug charges, bringing her closer to temporary freedom after six years, I believe Justice was Served.
When news broke out that the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 cleared De Lima in Criminal Case Number 17-165 (the first case filed against her) many of us including myself felt vindicated. Moreover, since she was already cleared in one of the three cases last 2021, only one more charge remains in court. I just hope and pray that the Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 256 will issue soon its resolution on the former lawmaker’s petition for bail.
Clearly the retraction by key witnesses and by the former Bureau of Corrections acting chief Rafael Ragos of his allegations against De Lima proved significant in her acquittal. Presiding Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara said in his ruling: “Under the circumstances of this case, the testimony of witness Ragos is necessary to sustain any possible conviction. Without his testimony, the crucial link to establish conspiracy is shrouded with reasonable doubt. Hence, this Court is constrained to consider the subsequent retraction of witness Ragos,”
Though the sad reality was that court proceedings against de Lima in the last six years have been marred by unwarranted delays, including the repeated failure of prosecution witnesses to appear in court and changes in judges handling the cases against her. I still see the light at the end of the tunnel … the truth will always prevail. In fact, even in 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that the imprisonment of de Lima was arbitrary because of the lack of legal basis and the non-observance of international standards relating to the right to a fair trial.
To quote the Dalai Lama, “Try to remain truthful. The power of truth never declines. Force and violence may be effective in the short term, but in the long run, it’s truth that prevails.” No matter how long it takes, the truth will always triumphs. Have you ever thought about this: You can walk into a store and buy a flashlight, but you can’t buy a “flashdark”. That’s because darkness can never overcome light. It is the other way around: Light always overcomes the darkness.
As such, I join the Commission on Human Rights as they assert for a, “faster development and swift resolution of the remaining charge against the former senator. (That) It is crucial to consistently uphold the right to a speedy and fair trial for all accused. Further, we urge that the right to be presumed innocent is applied extensively and consistently to all persons awaiting resolution of their cases, regardless of their socio-economic background, political affiliation, or status.”