Muntinlupa judge inhibits from De Lima drug case
Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Judge Lorna Navarro Domingo has recused herself from handling the illegal drug case of Senator Leila De Lima.
“The court finds no sufficient ground to inhibit herself from conducting trial, however, in order to show good faith to all parties concern and being within the discretionary power of this Court, the undersigned Presiding Justice recused herself from trying this case,” Domingo said in her five page order dated Nov. 5, 2018.
The senator, through her counsel sought Domingo’s inhibition accusing her of prematurely ruling against her motion to disqualify 13 previously-convicted witnesses despite her own order that gave them five days to file a reply to the prosecution’s comment.
De Lima sought the disqualification of the convicted witnesses insisting that the law, specifically Republic Act 6981 or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, states that the witness must not have been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.
The witnesses against the senator are mostly convicted drug traffickers, robbers. and carnappers.
Domingo said she did not prematurely rule on De Lima’s motion because the comment or opposition she has required for the senator to submit was actually submitted but filed beyond the deadline.
“It was filed out of time. OCA (Office of the Court Administrator) 250-2015 is very clear in the strict observance of the Office Hours which was alleged in the Order dated Sept. 24, 2018,” Domingo said.
She also denied violating De Lima’s rights to a public trial.
“Only media men were not allowed inside the court room to cover the proceedings since it would distract the parties as well as the lawyers inside. The Court observe sub-judice rule,” Domingo said adding that she allowed foreign observers to observe the proceedings.
De Lima was originally charged with “illegal drug trading” but was amended to “conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.”
This is not the first time De Lima sought the inhibition of a judge handling her case.
In November 2017, she also asked Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 to inhibit from the case. She accused the judge of partiality in issuing her warrant of arrest, not immediately acting on her motion to quash and in scheduling her arraignment despite the pending motion to quash before the RTC and a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court.
Early this year, Guerrero recused herself from the case. /muf
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