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Bishop calls for charges against police who coerced witness against Senator De Lima

The witness denied his earlier claims that he had dealings with Senator De Lima and that he had given her money

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, called for the filing of charges against policemen who allegedly forced a suspected drug dealer to testify against detained senator Leila De Lima.

“Now can a case please be filed against those who subjected [Kerwin Espinosa’ to ‘pressure, coercion, intimidation?’” the bishop said in a statement.

Espinosa, a self-confessed drug dealer submitted on April 28, a sworn affidavit retracting his testimony against De Lima, a former secretary of the Department of Justice.

He said “any statement” he made against the senator “is false, and was the result only of pressure, coercion, intimidation, and serious threats” to his life and family members.

Espinosa also denied his earlier claims that he had dealings with De Lima and that he had given her money.

De Lima, a staunch critic of the “war on drugs” of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, is in jail for five years now.

“Hindi lang ang mga nagsampa ng kaso laban sa kanya ang mananagot sa Diyos at sa bayan sa ginawa sa kanya kundi pati lahat ng mga tumahimik at sumang-ayon sa panghuhusga sa kanya at sa pambubusabos sa dangal ng kanyang pagkatao (Not only those who filed a case against her will answer to God and to the country for all that was done to her, but even those who kept their silence and agreed to the judgment against her and the disrespect to her dignity),” said Bishop David.

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The prelate noted that because of her detention De Lima was prevented from doing her job as a senator.

“The serious injustice committed against Senator Leila De Lima is an injustice committed against the Filipino people,” said Bishop David.

In a statement, De Lima’s lawyer, Filibon Tacardon, said Espinosa’s affidavit “proves the length the current administration has gone to fabricate testimonies and evidence against” the senator.

“We hope that other witnesses will also come out and confess how they were intimidated, coerced, and bribed into making false testimonies against the good senator and if possible, name those who actively participated in coercing them to come up with such ridiculous narratives against the good senator,” said Tacardon.

Father Flaviano Villanueva, SVD, one of the senator’s spiritual advisers, said that since Day One of the hearings, “the basis of the prosecution’s cases has been mostly hearsay.”

“We will not rest until justice is served. We will not rest until you are set free! We will not rest until your name and dignity is once again reclaimed,” the priest posted on social media with hashtags calling to free De Lima.

In February 2017, De Lima was detained over her alleged involvement in the drug trade.

Espinosa was one of the witnesses against the senator, but was removed from the witness protection program in February.

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