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Carpio: SC ruling on De Lima 'one of the grossest injustices' in recent memory

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Carpio: SC ruling on De Lima 'one of the grossest injustices' in recent memory

In the drug cases, detained Sen. Leila de Lima is accused of receiving around P10 million in drug payoffs from high profile convicts engaged in the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court’s decision keeping Sen. Leila de Lima in jail for the drug charges against her is “one of the grossest injustices” in recent memory, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said as he condemned the “fake charge” against the lawmaker.

Early this week, the SC justices voted 9-6 to deny for lack of merit De Lima’s petition questioning the jurisdiction of the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court in issuing the warrant for her arrest.

READ: SC votes to keep De Lima in jail

The SC ruled that the Muntinlupa RTC has exclusive jurisdiction over the drug charges against De Lima, even if her position with salary grade higher than 27 is under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.

In the drug cases, De Lima is accused of receiving around P10 million in drug payoffs from high profile convicts engaged in the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison.

In his 39-page dissenting opinion released by the High Court on October 10, Carpio described the accusations against the lady senator as “blatantly a pure invention.”

He added that the SC, being “the last bulwark of democracy and liberty in the land,” should not support such a “fake charge” against De Lima.

“To allow the continued detention of petitioner under this Information is one of the grossest injustices ever perpetrated in recent memory in full view of the Filipino nation and the entire world,” Carpio said.

Aside from Carpio, the other magistrates who dissented from the majority ruling were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Estela Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza and Benjamin Caguioa.

The eight magistrates who concurred with the ruling were Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes and Alexander Gesmundo.

De Lima was arrested last February 24 upon warrant issued by the Muntinlupa RTC on drugs charges she says were hurled against her as part of a presidential vendetta.

A former justice secretary, she launched a Senate probe into alleged unlawful killings by the police in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

‘Deeply disturbing’'

In his separate dissenting opinion, Leonen said that while the majority’s position was not surprising at all, such a decision is “deeply disturbing.”

Leonen also said that it is “reasonable to suspect” that the charges against De Lima, a known vocal critic of the Duterte administration, were “quintessentially the use of the strong arm of the law to silence dissent.”

He then qualified De Lima’s case as “special” due to its “exceptional circumstances” as he urged the High Court to not waver when it finds “rights clearly violated.”

“Even in strong democracies, dissenting voices naturally find themselves in the minority... To me, what happened in this case is clear enough. The motives are not disguised,” Leonen said.

“This Court would be in the best position to resolve the case as it presents exceptional circumstances indicating that it may be ‘a case of persecution rather than prosecution,’” he added.

“It is this that makes this case special: if we fail to call this case what it truly is, then it will not only be the petitioner who will be in chains. None of us will be able to claim to be genuinely free.”

Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. penned the ruling after rejecting the plea of De Lima for his inhibition due to alleged “conflict of interest” over his “prior actuations” in the case of convicted drug lord German Agojo, one of the witnesses against the senator in the drug cases.

In its ruling, the SC rejected De Lima’s argument that the criminal case against her should be direct bribery and not violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

It also ruled that Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 did not commit grave abuse of discretion in ordering the arrest of De Lima and finding probable cause in the charges against her.

Lastly, the SC added De Lima’s petition was premature as it violated the rule on hierarchy of courts and the prohibition against forum shopping.

According to De Lima, her lawyers would file a motion for reconsideration and “continue to appeal to the sense of fairness and justice” of the SC.

For her, the ruling “legitimizes oppression and political persecution.”

“Every day spent behind bars on bogus charges brings pain and untold sufferings. But it also strengthens resolve,” De Lima said.

READ: SC decision legitimizes political persecution, says De Lima

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