The Department of Justice initially charged Sen. Leila de Lima with illegal drug trade. State prosecutors, led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, later amended the charge sheet and charged the senator with conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade.
AP/Bullit Marquez
De Lima asks Muntinlupa judge to recuse self from drug case
( - October 16, 2018 - 2:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — Detained Sen. Leila De Lima asked the judge who junked her plea to disqualify convicts as witnesses in the case against her  to inhibit, claiming manifest bias.

The senator filed a 13-page Motion for Inhibition asking Acting Presiding Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 to recuse from the case saying she has shown “manifest bias, partiality and acts of prejudgment” against her.

De Lima noted that she asked the court to drop the 13 convicts listed by the Department of Justice as witnesses in the conspiracy to commit illegal drug case against her.

She argued that the witnesses were convicted of crimes with “moral turpitude” that, De Lima added, goes against the law on state witnesses. The witnesses were found guilty of crimes like kidnapping, murder, robbery with homicide, drug trade and kidnapping for ransom.

But the court junked her plea on September 24 for being “devoid of merit.” Domingo also said that court rules state that “all persons who can perceive, and perceiving can make known their perception to others, may be witnesses.”

Judge ruled before De Lima could file comment

De Lima, in asking for Domingo to recuse herself from the case, pointed out that the court ruled before she could even submit her comment on the DOJ’s opposition to the plea to disqualify witnesses.

This, the senator said, showed that Navarro “was already predisposed” in ruling on her motion.

Domingo later ruled that De Lima’s comment was beyond the time allowed for a party to submit a pleading.

Judge barred media from covering trial, De Lima says

The senator also raised that Domingo issued a verbal order barring members of the media from covering the trial.

De Lima said the ruling against her pleading and the “apparent hostility of the Honorable Judge to the media to observe her manner in the conduct of the proceedings” by directing that media be denied access to the courtroom “no longer indicate mere lapses in judgment and innocent actions that were not intended to prejudice the defense of the Accused.”

Media are usually allowed to cover hearings although there are restrctions on using gadgets like recorders when doing so.

“Instead, the recurrence of said incidents already unravel a surreptitious design to undermine the defense of the Accused from the very beginning, by prejudging incidents raised by the Accused thereby displaying a manifest bias, partiality and even hostility to the cause of the Accused,” De Lima’s motion further read.

The senator has been detained at Camp Crame since February last year. She has been accused of allowing the proliferation of drugs inside the new Bilibid Prison during her stint as Justice secretary.

She has repeatedly said the allegations against her are motivated by politics. She is one of President Rodrigo Duterte's most vocal critics and investigated allegations of extrajudicial killings in Davao City while Justice secretary and Commission on Human Rights chairperson before that. — Kristine Joy Patag

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