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CHR urges fair, swift trial of De Lima cases

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday sought the swift disposition of the drug charges filed against former Senator Leila de Lima, who has been imprisoned for over five years.

CHR executive director Jacqueline de Guia said that “any further delay to a fair trial” for de Lima would be a direct violation of her rights, adding that speedy disposition of cases is part of a person's rights under the Constitution.

“Former Senator de Lima has been detained now for more than half a decade. Any further delay to a fair trial directly violates the rights of persons deprived of liberty,” De Guia said in a press statement.

“It is the obligation of the State to ascertain truth and justice whilst presuming their innocence and guaranteeing their constitutional right to the swift disposition of cases. We cannot, as duty bearers, impede the fulfillment of our moral and civic duty to the Filipino people to respect and protect their human rights,” she said.

In a statement, the Department of Justice stressed it values human rights.

"Human rights is very important to the Department. In fact, we’ve been in constant dialogue with the international community on several human rights initiatives and programs," lawyer Mico Clavano from the Office of the DOJ Secretary said.

"On the issue of coercion of witnesses - if evidence points to the fact that indeed these witnesses were coerced, we will act on it. There would be no justice there, if the allegations are true," he added.

De Lima has been detained since February 2017 after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed three separate cases against her for allegedly abetting the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison from 2010 to 2015.

One of her three cases was dismissed by a Muntinlupa court but the two remaining charges are still pending.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the direct and indirect bribery charges against her and former bodyguard, Ronnie Dayan, saying it found inconsistencies in the testimonies of self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, Ram-Jhon Michael Espinosa, and Marcelo Adorco as to how the bribe was given and the supposed meeting with De Lima in Baguio City.

Espinosa previously accused De Lima of receiving P8 million from him for her senatorial campaign through Dayan. He retracted his accusations last April, adding he was forced to make the allegations after being “coerced, pressured, intimidated and seriously threatened” by the police to implicate de Lima.

The DOJ, however, clarified there is no inconsistency between its 2017 resolution and the resolution recently released by the anti-graft court as the department also did not also consider Espinosa’s testimony.

Witness’ allegations should be probed

Meanwhile, de Guia expressed hope authorities would look into Espinosa’s accusations that he was coerced and intimidated by authorities.

“CHR remains hopeful that the alleged coercion and intimidation of witnesses by government officials will be looked into. This possible criminal offense must not be disregarded without appropriate action,” she said.

“We urge the continued exercise of impartiality, prudence, and propriety in the deliverance of justice. Let the principles of truth and objectivity, at all times, be central in our legal responsibilities,” she added.—LDF, GMA News