Leila de Lima has said the dismissal of drug charges against Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Co, among others, is proof of her innocence.
Espinosa and Co testified in congressional hearings that De Lima was part of the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary during the Aquino administration.
“Now that the DOJ has acquitted Peter Lim, Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Co and others involved in illegal drugs, my innocence — as well as my belief that Duterte’s war on drugs is a failure — is further strengthened,” the jailed senator said.
The testimonies of the alleged drug lords were central to the evidence used to charge De Lima with drug trafficking.
She is being held at the Camp Crame police headquarters in Quezon City.
De Lima expressed doubts that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and President Duterte were not aware of the Department of Justice (DOJ) ruling. The decision to clear the 22 was taken in December, but not revealed until this week, when it was leaked to the media.
De Lima said it should be clear to the public by now the administration’s campaign against drugs “is a big joke, except that the thousands killed in its name are not laughing because they are all dead”.
“And the biggest joke of all? The government tried to hide the dismissal of the cases from the public since December last year. And now Duterte is pretending to huff and puff at this dismissal,” she said.
De Lima said Malacañang concealed the DOJ resolution for a deal with the drug lords “or they are so incompetent as to be completely ignorant of the dismissal a full three months after the fact”.
The DOJ has cleared Espinosa, Lim, Co and 20 others of drug charges for “lack of evidence”.
Vice President Leni Robredo has backed calls for De Lima’s release following the dropping of charges against the drug lords.
She pointed out that De Lima was jailed because of Espinosa’s testimony. “But the DOJ is now saying that there was no sufficient evidence, there was no probable cause to file a case in court against Espinosa. Then why has Senator De Lima, whom they claimed received money from him, remained in detention for more than a year now?”
In a Senate hearing in November 2016, Espinosa admitted being a drug dealer, and claimed that he gave De Lima eight million pesos for her senatorial campaign. He also admitted that he earned up to 50 million pesos per year in the drug trade.