THE JUSTICE department will continue prosecuting a lady senator who is one of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s most outspoken critics for drug trafficking even after at least four witnesses retracted their allegations against her.
“The panel of prosecutors in the De Lima cases has advised the Justice secretary that, after a thorough review of the evidence already presented as well as evidence still to be presented, there is good reason to continue the active prosecution of the senator,” Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told reporters in a Viber message on Tuesday, referring to Senator Leila M. de Lima.
“As far as the retractions of certain persons are concerned, the prosecution takes the position that until these persons are actually presented in court for examination to ascertain their truthfulness, their alleged recantations have no probative value whatsoever,” he added.
Mr. Guevarra said he had briefed incoming Justice Secretary Crispin C. Remulla on the cases and he would be guided by the prosecutors handling the legal proceedings.
At least four witnesses have taken back their allegations against Ms. De Lima, claiming to have been coerced by government agents into falsely accusing the senator.
Mr. Remulla earlier said he was open to reviewing the case of the senator, who has been in jail since February 2017, even as he noted that courts frown upon retractions.
At a Muntinlupa court hearing on Monday, Ms. De Lima sought a medical leave from her trial from June 19-25 because she has to undergo a major medical procedure, her lawyers told reporters on Viber.
Prosecutor General Benedicto A. Malcontento told reporters in a Viber message on Monday they would not object to the request.
The lawmaker earlier asked the Justice department to “dig deeper” in their review of her drug cases and reassess the evidence.
Political and human rights experts have said Ms. De Lima’s detention showed how the Philippine justice system could be easily abused. — John Victor D. Ordoñez