DETAINED former Senator Leila M. de Lima’s lawyer and spokesman on Monday said they were not aware of an offer for house arrest until Sunday when Senator María Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos said it had been on the table since July.
This comes after the former senator, known to be one of ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s fiercest critics, was taken hostage by one of three inmates who tried to escape jail near the Philippine capital on Sunday morning.
After the incident, Ms. Marcos said in a Viber message to reporters: “I strongly urge Sen. Leila de Lima to have the medical checkup she requires, with her own physician, as well as immediately take up the extended home furlough that both the DoJ (Department of Justice) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) offered as early as July.”
“To be candid, we learned that offer only through Senator Imee Marcos yesterday,” Ms. De Lima’s lawyer and spokesman, Filibon F. Tacardon, told ABS-CBN News on Monday, referring to the “extended home furlough.”
“We have not actually received a formal offer for this extended home furlough… and it came to us only yesterday,” he added.
Nonetheless, Mr. Tacardon said they will take the supposed offer seriously.
“We are now ready to discuss the matter of applying for an extended home furlough with (former) Senator Leila de Lima and discuss with her the options available — advantages and disadvantages, that is what I mean when I say we are taking it seriously now,” he said.
The former senator declined the suggestion of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to be transferred to another detention center, as disclosed by Interior Secretary Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr. who visited her at the Camp Crame police headquarters in Quezon City after Sunday’s incident.
“What is paramount is the safety of everyone including (former) Sen. De Lima. (Former) Senator De Lima opted to stay at her current facility,” he said in a Facebook post on Sunday, noting that she mentioned feeling safer at the police custodial center.
Mr. Tacardon explained that the initial response of the senator may be due to her unstable mental state at the time.
“We have to understand that the incident was very fresh on her mind. She was clearly traumatized by the incident, and she has not yet processed it,” he said. “But later, she relayed to her defense team some instructions, and immediately, we discussed the possibility of applying for a home furlough instead.”
In Ms. De Lima’s statement on the hostage situation, she said that the hostage-taker was already “determined to die and to take me with him.”
“After being told by the hostage-taker that since his two other companions were already dead, he’s certain he would also be killed and he might just as well also kill me, I consider what happened to me as a near-death experience,” she said.
Meanwhile, a bail hearing for one of the two pending drug trafficking cases against Ms. De Lima on Monday was reset to October 24 as she was exposed to Mr. Abalos, who announced Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19.
At least four key witnesses have retracted their allegations about the former lawmaker’s involvement in the illegal drug trade.
The Ombudsman had dismissed bribery charges against Ms. De Lima, who has been in jail since February 2017, and her former aide as it found no probable cause to indict them.
In February last year, a Muntinlupa court acquitted the top Duterte critic, citing government prosecutors’ failure to prove her involvement in drug trafficking. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and John Victor D. Ordoñez