De Lima seeks SC relief on drug charges
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2017 - 11:30pm

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Leila de Lima yesterday sought relief from the Supreme Court (SC) against her detention over drug trafficking cases before the Muntinlupa regional trial court.

In an 81-page petition filed through her lawyers, the embattled senator questioned her indictment by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and insisted that the agency has no jurisdiction over the case that should have been forwarded to the Office of the Ombudsman.

De Lima is a vocal critic of President Duterte’s war against drugs marked by reports of summary killings and human rights violations. When she was chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, De Lima investigated Duterte’s alleged link to the Davao death squad purportedly behind summary killings in the southern city when he was mayor.

Claiming that she is a victim of political persecution, De Lima asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the proceedings in the drug cases against her.

She also asked the high court to issue a status quo ante order on the arrest warrant issued last week by Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 that would allow her release from detention.

De Lima argued that the allegations against her do not actually constitute sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act), but rather only direct bribery.

She noted that under the law, such charges should fall under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan and not the RTC because her position at the time was justice secretary, which has salary grade higher than 27.

“Without allegations, much less proof, of actual selling and trafficking, the prosecution likewise failed to establish that the amounts allegedly given to the accused were derived from the illegal drug trade, or that they were actually received by the accused, especially given that they failed to establish that the bank accounts belong to the accused,” read her petition filed by lawyer Alex Padilla.

“Also, and more importantly, not only are the elements of the crime not alleged in the information, there is dearth of evidence on record to prove the corpus delicti, that there is no proof of actual trafficking or trading of illegal drugs,” it added.

De Lima also questioned the “undue haste and inordinate interest” by which the DOJ filed the cases and the RTC issued the warrant of arrest, claiming grave abuse of discretion.

She said the DOJ resolved the consolidated complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation, crime watchdog group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala and high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian without first resolving her motion seeking transfer of the preliminary investigation to the ombudsman.

De Lima also said Muntinlupa RTC branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero violated constitutional requirements and procedural rules in issuing the arrest warrant against her without first hearing her motion to quash information and judicial determination of probable cause.

“Also, had she really made a personal and careful evaluation of the records, she could have easily spotted the false certification in the information that was submitted by the DOJ panel,” she said.

“The panel stated that they personally examined the witnesses of the complainants during the preliminary investigation. However, as indicated in the DOJ Panel’s Joint Resolution, no actual witnesses showed up during the preliminary investigation and what was merely attached to the complaints were testimonies and affidavits of resource persons, including inmates from the Bilibid, that were taken during a congressional inquiry.

“Haste, when unduly applied in the context of the criminal justice system, such that it constitutes a blatant failure to respect and uphold a person’s fundamental rights and to observe the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution to protect the rights of the accused, it results in something far more destructive, more pestilent and graver than mere imperfection,” she added.

Padilla, meanwhile, said in a press conference that De Lima’s camp would seek the inhibition of Guerrero, believing that she has already prejudged the cases.

A court insider said De Lima’s petition has been included in the agenda of the SC justices in their session today. The source further bared that it was raffled off to Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.

DE LIMA
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