De Lima asks SC to appoint new judge in her drug case

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
De Lima asks SC to appoint new judge in her drug case
Sen. Leila de Lima to attend court trial at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 on Aug. 16, 2019.
Office of Sen. Leila de Lima / Released

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila de Lima has asked the Supreme Court to designate a new judge to take on one of her drug cases pending before Muntinlupa courts after Judge Antonietta Medina supposedly said she would not be conducting more hearings.

In a two-page letter to Court Administrator Midas Marquez, De Lima asked to SC to appoint a presiding judge to hearing Criminal Case No. 17-167, one of her three drug cases.

The specific case charges De Lima, former Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli and Jose Adrian Dera, aides Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez, and inmate Jaybee Sebastian with conspiracy to commit drug trading. It is pending before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256.

Judge Medina is currently the pairing judge for the case, after Judge Gener Gito, the acting presiding judge, was relieved of his designation.

“As Judge Medina has already inhibited twice from one of my other pending RTC cases, my counsels and I have recently been informed that she will not be conducting any hearings from Criminal Case No. 17-167,” she said.

De Lima’s case was first raffled to Medina in 2018 but a Rappler report quoting Fhillip Sawali, chief of staff of the senator, said the judge inhibited and said verbally that she’s a classmate and “kumare” of De Lima.

The case was re-raffled back to her sala, after Judge Myra Bayot-Quiambao also recused herself, but she once again inhibited.

Three years in detention, only five out of 54 prosecution witnesses

De Lima stressed that since her detention almost three years ago and her arraignment in July 2018, “only five out of 54 identified prosecution witnesses have been called to testify.”

“In view of the foregoing developments, we fervently hope that your good office would act earnestly and immediately on the matter appointing a presiding judge to hear Criminal Case No. 17-167 pending before [Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256],” she added.

Six judges have taken their hands off the drug cases against De Lima, either by inhibiting or opting for early retirement.

Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz opted for early retirement in May last year.

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