REMOTE CAMPAIGNING. Jailed Senator Leila de Lima makes an appearance via video message during a campaign rally of presidential candidate, Vice President Leni Robredo, in this April 2022 photo. Cardboard standees of the senator, who is detained on illegal drug charges, were also included in various Robredo sorties. (Photo courtesy of Sen. de Lima Facebook)

MANILA – Vice President and presidential aspirant Leni Robredo called for the release of detained Senator Leila de Lima following witnesses taking back their testimonies.

In a statement on Monday, Robredo said in the five-year detention of de Lima, not a single gram of illegal drugs or other documentary evidence have been brought against the senator.

Patunay lang ito ng katotohanang matagal ko nang iginigiit: Walang kaso laban kay Sen. Leila de Lima. Ang tanging kasalanan niya ay ang magsabi ng totoo at ipagtanggol ang karapatan ng mga kapwa natin Pilipino (This only proves the truth that I have long been saying: There is no case against Sen. Leila de Lima.  Her only offense is to tell the truth and defend the rights of every Filipino),” Robredo said.

Earlier, former National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director for Intelligence and former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos issued an affidavit that he was “coerced” into testifying against de Lima and her aide, Ronnie Dayan.

Before this, self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa also retracted his allegations that de Lima received money from jailed drug lords, although he was never a witness in the cases against the senator.

Wala nang dahilan para manatili sa piitan si Sen Leila. Dapat na siyang palayain sa lalong madaling panahon. Kaisa ko ang bawat Pilipinong naniniwala sa hustisya sa panawagan (There is no more reason for Sen Leila to stay in prison.  She should be set free soon. I join other Filipinos in asking for her release). Free Leila now,” Robredo said.

Some netizens also expressed hope the reelectionist de Lima will be released soon.

“Free Leila de Lima now. Since day 1 of her incarceration, I've always believed in her innocence of the charges hurled against her,” posted Delilah Causin.

“The fruit of our unceasing prayers for the release of Sen. Leila is now slowly unfolding. Lord God, please let it happen now if it is Thy will, Amen!” posted Teresita Flordeliz on Facebook.

Immaterial

The Department of Justice earlier said the prosecution will present its last three witnesses, excluding Espinosa, on May 16 on the drug charges against de Lima.

It said “the prosecution will not utilize Espinosa as a witness in this case because his then statements/affidavit which he recanted are immaterial to the prosecution’s case”.

Malacañang said last week the retraction of Espinosa has no impact on the pending drug-related charges against detained Senator Leila de Lima.

“While Kerwin Espinosa appears to have recanted his allegations against Senator Leila de Lima, his recantation will not have any effect on the pending criminal cases against the lady senator,” acting Presidential Spokesperson and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a press statement. (PNA)