Prosecutors to amend charges vs De Lima
State prosecutors are planning to revise the drug trafficking case they filed against detained Sen. Leila de Lima, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II disclosed on Tuesday.
“I heard that they will make an amendment. I don’t know if they will pursue it. It’s the call of the [National Prosecution Service]. It’s not up to us,” Aguirre told reporters.
Aguirre said that the prosecutors were supposedly studying the position that Solicitor General Jose Calida explained during the oral arguments on De Lima’s petition in the Supreme Court.
Calida had told the magistrates that De Lima should have been charged with violating Section 26 of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, instead of violating Section 5 of the law.
Section 26 pertains to “any attempt or conspiracy” to import, sell, trade, administer, dispense, deliver, distribute and transport illegal drugs, and maintain a drug den, produce narcotics and cultivate sources of illicit substances.
On the other hand, Section 5 prohibits the “sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals.”
De Lima, who has been detained in Camp Crame since her arrest on Feb. 24, was indicted for violation of Section 5 in relation to Section 3(jj), Section 26(b) and Section 28.
Section 3(jj) refers to the trading of illegal drugs, while Section 28 covers the criminal liability of public officials involved in the proliferation of narcotics.
Asked if amending a complaint already filed in court was authorized, Aguirre said: “That’s legal. The solicitor general himself said the Supreme Court did not see anything wrong with it.”
Last week, the high court voted 9-6 to junk De Lima’s petition for certiorari due to several technicalities as it ruled that Presiding Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 204 had jurisdiction to hear the case.
In the majority ruling written by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., the tribunal said that state prosecutors were allowed to “amend the information at any time before arraignment.”
“Since [De Lima] has not yet been arraigned, then the information … can still be amended pursuant to Section 14, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court,” the high court said in its ruling.
It added: “All these, at least preliminarily, outline a case for illegal drug trading committed in conspiracy by the petitioner and her coaccused.”
The magistrates also held that the failure of any lower court judge to “order the correction of a defect in the information curable by an amendment amounts to an arbitrary exercise of power.”
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