De Lima wants Velasco to inhibit from deliberating drug case
Detained Senator Leila De Lima on Thursday asked Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco to inhibit himself from participating in hearing her petition that seeks the nullification of the arrest warrant issued by the Muntinlupa regional trial court and stop her indictment for drug-related charges.
In a 10-page motion for inhibition, De Lima said Velasco is the only one who voted for the acquittal of drug convict German Agojo.
Agojo is one of the government’s witnesses against De Lima on allegations that she benefitted from the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) during her time as Justice secretary.
The high court affirmed Agojo’s conviction.
“The inordinate link and actuations of Justice Velasco with regard to German Agojo will significantly taint the credibility of the impending decision of the Honorable Supreme Court if he is to participate in the deliberations of the instant case and permitted to signify his position accordingly.”
“It is settled in our jurisprudence that the cold neutrality of an impartial judge is an essential part of due process. Thus, it is necessary for the judge to reassure litigants of his being fair and being just,” De Lima said in his motion.
The high court is set to act on her petition next Tuesday.
In her petition filed last February, De Lima asked the high court to stop her indictment before the Muntinlupa City regional trial court by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for drug charges.
She sought issuance of temporary restraining order stopping the proceedings in the drug cases against her and status quo ante order on the arrest warrant issued last week by Muntinlupa City regional trial court branch 204 that would allow her release from detention.
Her petition, which was heard by the SC in oral arguments last March, raised the issue on whether the cases against her fall under the jurisdiction of the RTC or the Sandiganbayan.
The DOJ indicted the senator before the RTC, saying drug cases fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the trial courts.
But De Lima argued that not the DOJ but the Office of the Ombudsman has jurisdiction on her case, because her position at that time was secretary of Justice which has salary grade higher than 27.
The senator, who is currently detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, also 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.
De Lima likewise, claimed political persecution is the reason behind her indictment and detention supposedly for being the number one critic of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. /jpv
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