Judge rejects request to consolidate 3 cases vs De Lima
A Muntinlupa regional trial court (RTC) judge denied the prosecution’s motion to consolidate the three drug trafficking cases against Sen. Leila de Lima.
Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero said in a two-page court resolution dated March 30, that she found no merit to hear the three cases in a single court because they involved different incidents.
The consolidation of the cases would only prolong the trial, said Guerrero, the same judge who ordered De Lima’s arrest in February.
This was contrary to the petition of the Department of Justice prosecutors which said that consolidating the cases “is more practical… and [means to] avoid unnecessary costs and prevent the issuance of conflicting resolutions, orders and decisions.”
In a motion dated Feb. 27, the prosecution asked Guerrero to consolidate Criminal Cases No. 17-166 and 17-167 with Criminal Case No. 165, which was filed in her sala at the Muntinlupa RTC Branch (RTC) 204.
De Lima, who is currently detained at the custodial center of the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, was accused of profiteering from the illegal drug trade inside the National Bilibid Prison during her term as justice secretary.
The charge sheets said De Lima used the drug money raised by the inmates as her campaign kitty when she ran for senator in 2016.
Peter Ong, senior state assistant prosecutor from the DOJ, in a previous interview said the three complaints against De Lima and her other co-accused could be tried jointly by a branch of the Muntinlupa RTC as per Rule 119, Section 22 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The rule said the consolidated cases should be assigned to the RTC branch which hears the case with the lowest docket number.
Ong said they had filed a motion for reconsideration, insisting that there were “commonalities” in the three cases.
He said the charges had common accused, citing De Lima in all three cases, and her former security aide Jad Dera on two cases.
“The incident itself, although in a span of three to four years, it is just one activity: the NBP drug trade. It is a series of offenses [founded on] similar facts,” he added.
Meanwhile, the hearing of another complaint against De Lima under Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz was rescheduled for June 30.
Filibon Tacardon, counsel of De Lima, said it was to give the court enough time to study for resolution their motions including motions to quash the charge, omnibus motion for juridical determination of probable cause, and motion to strike./rga