Rights lawyers join calls for de Lima’s release

NUPL says Espinosa, Ragos retractions must be given full and proper consideration

Public interest lawyers urged the release of Senator Leila de Lima in light of the retractions of two witnesses on her alleged drug links.

In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers(NUPL) said the retraction of both self-confessed drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa and former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Lagos last month must compel the Department of Justice to give both developments their “full and proper consideration.”

“These validate what we knew all along. That the legal and judicial process is being deliberately weaponized by the State and its agents for nefarious political reasons by unscrupulously constructing false narratives and peddling manufactured evidence,” the NUPL said in a statement today.

In an April 30 affidavit submitted to a Pasig City Court, Ragos said he was only “coerced” by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre into testifying against de Lima.

In his own undated counter-affidavit, Espinosa said charges against de Lima are not true and were only the result of “pressure, coercion, intimidation, and serious threats to his (Espinosa) life and family from the police.”

Espinosa added the Philippine National Police instructed him to implicate the senator into the illegal drug trade.

Espinosa’s father, then Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa was killed by the police while in detention at the Baybay City Jail in November 2016 after President Rodrigo Duterte accused the local chief executive of being a drug personality.

De Lima’s lawyer and spokesperson Dino de Leon said that the “truth is starting to come out.”

Two of the three charges against Senator de Lima are still pending.

The NUPL said reports of wrongdoing at how the Duterte government went after its critic de Lima undermines the so-called rule of law and gnaws at the integrity of institutions.

“It is extremely lamentable and distressing that one can just be casually thrown in jail for years by using the whole State apparatus to silence critics and fiscalizers like Sen. Leila de Lima,” the NUPL said.

“Those who masterminded, goaded and enabled this brazen injustice must be held accountable in some way in time lest these outrages be repeated,” the human rights lawyers added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)