Judge rejects motion to consolidate drug cases vs De Lima

The request of the prosecution to consolidate the cases against top Duterte critic Leila De Lima was denied by a Muntinlupa court judge on Friday. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines — A Muntinlupa court on Friday dismissed the petition of the justice department to consolidate the drug-related cases against Sen. Leila De Lima.

In a court resolution, Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 rejected the motion of the prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to consolidate the three drug cases against the senator, a top critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In denying the motion, Guerrero said that she found no merit in hearing the three cases in a single court as they involved different incidents and personalities.

Guerrero said in her March 30 resolution that instead of expediting the resolution of the cases, consolidating them to be handled by one judge would prolong the process.

The prosecution argued in their February 27 petition that Criminal Cases 17-165, 17-166 and 17-167 could be tried together because they arose from a similar set of facts, involved common parties and issues, would use interrelated evidence as the cases were based on the same facts, forming part of a series of offenses similar in character.

The DOJ argued that based on Section 22 of Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure such consolidation could be done.

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“Justice and expediency demand that it is more practical and will serve the ends of justice to consolidate all (3) cases to this branch which is the lowest in number, to avoid necessary costs and to prevent the issuance of conflicting resolutions, orders and decisions,” Guerrero’s resolution said of the prosecution plea.

Guerrero was the judge who issued the arrest warrant against De Lima in February. The senator is accused of financially benefitting from the illegal narcotics trade at the National Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary of the Aquino administration.

The prosecution said that De Lima used her position to raise money to finance her senatorial bid during the 2016 election.

The senator meanwhile maintained that the charges against her were politically motivated as she led a Senate inquiry last year into the extralegal killings allegedly perpetrated by the Davao Death Squad when Duterte was still its mayor.

De Lima has a pending motion before the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the Muntinlupa court's jurisdiction over her case. She has also accused Guerrero of hastily issuing the arrest order against her without taking her time to properly study the case. Government lawyers deny this and say that De Lima's camp is engaging in forum shopping for filing similar motions in different courts.

Recently, both De Lima and Duterte have made it to Time Magazine's list of 100 most influential people

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