De Lima asks Supreme Court to dismiss contempt charge
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday asked the Supreme Court to clear her of contempt charge over her decision to stop former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from leaving the country to seek medical treatment abroad.
Replying to a show-cause order, De Lima denied she intentionally disregarded the high court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping her from implementing her watch-list order barring Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, from traveling abroad earlier this month.
“(I)t is respectfully prayed … that respondent be declared innocent of the charge of failure to comply with, or disobedience to, a lawful order of the Honorable Court,” De Lima said.
She said the order from the high tribunal for her to explain why she should not be held in contempt of court did not contain the specific violations she purportedly committed.
“As with any formal charge, the same should have contained the particular factual allegations constituting the alleged contumacious acts being charged against respondent,” De Lima said.
Not yet effective
She argued that she did not violate any court order since the TRO “was not yet effective … for lack of proper service to respondent and counsel.”
According to her, the Rules of Court explicitly state that legal relief such as a TRO becomes in effect “only upon service” to the person concerned.
“The language of the TRO may be couched as to state that it is effective immediately but, still, it would only be so from and upon service to the party concerned,” she said.
When the Arroyo couple attempted to leave the country on the night of November 15, De Lima said she had yet to formally receive a copy of the tribunal’s order.
“Respondent… fervently opposes any undue amendment of the Rules of Court that would incorporate this ‘new rule’ on proper service to parties without due notice,” she said.
Separately, a lawyer on Monday sought De Lima’s disbarment for her refusal to implement the high court’s TRO.
In a nine-page complaint, Ricardo Rivera asked the high court to remove De Lima’s name from the Roll of Attorneys for her “clear, unequivocal and adamant defiance… of a lawful order of the Supreme Court.”
“(I)nstead of promoting the people’s faith and confidence in the judicial system, (De Lima) emasculates and undermines such faith and confidence to the detriment of the entire judiciary itself and its zealously guarded integrity,” Rivera claimed.
De Lima told reporters she was ready to answer Rivera’s allegations.
Also on Monday, Arroyo’s lawyers denounced claims that the former President’s legal team had tried to “coerce” some of her doctors into issuing false medical certificates about her.
“We deny that flatly. That is not true,” lawyer Jay Flaminiano said. “We did not coerce anyone, we did not persuade or force anyone to issue false medical certificates.”
Flaminiano said he was reacting to De Lima’s statement that there was a need to investigate reports about the supposed coercion attempt.
Flaminiano’s co-counsel, Lawrence Arroyo (no relation to the former President), said the media could have asked the doctors if the allegation was correct because the physicians “themselves would be the first to tell you there was no such thing as coercion.”
In a separate move, Arroyo’s legal team on MOnday asked the high court to dismiss a Department of Justice petition seeking to compel her doctors to appear during the oral arguments in court on the constitutionality of the DOJ’s watch-list order.
Lawyers Estelito Mendoza and Anacleto Diaz said the testimony of the doctors was irrelevant to the issues in the court. With a report from Miko Morelos
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