De Lima prods SC to appoint new judge on her drug case
MANILA, Philippines — Detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima has asked the Supreme Court to assign a new judge that will handle her drug case before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.
The Senator made the request after Judge Antonietta Medina of Muntinlupa RTC recently informed the parties that she will no longer be conducting any hearings on one of the cases against De Lima.
Medina twice inhibited from her other pending cases.
“I write in relation to my pending case before the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa, specifically Criminal Case No.17-167 that is currently being heard before RTC Muntinlupa Branch 256. Pursuant to OCA Circular No-213-2019 dated November 11, 2019, Judge Gener Gito, the acting presiding judge for RTC Muntinlupa Branch 256 was relieved of his designation and has been temporarily replaced by Judge Antonietta Medina of RTC Muntinlupa Branch 276 who will be acting as pairing judge,” De Lima said in her two-page letter addressed to Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez.
De Lima though did not say in her letter the reason why Medina would not be holding any hearings on the case.
The detained lawmaker said that since she was incarcerated last February 2017 and since her arraignment on the drug-related cases filed by the Department of Justice, only five out of the 54 prosecution witnesses have been called to testify against her.
“In view, if the foregoing developments, we fervently hope that your good office would act earnestly and immediately in the matter of appointing a presiding judge to hear Criminal Case No. 17-167 pending before the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256,” she added.
The said case also involves former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, alleged bagman Wilfredo Eli and Jose Adrian Dera, De Lima’s former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, security aide Joenel Sanchez, and convicted kidnapper Jaybee Sebastian.
Six judges have so far withdrawn from handling the controversial cases against the lawmaker, either by inhibiting or by opting for early retirement. These Judges are the following: Amelia Fabros-Corpus, Lorna Domingo, Juanita Guererro, Myra Quiambao, Medina, and Patricia Manalastas de Leon.
The DOJ has amended the complaint against De Lima from drug trafficking to conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.
Last week, DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra challenged De Lima to prove her contention that the drug-related charges against her is weak by filing a petition for bail or a demurrer to evidence.
Guevarra said De Lima and her supporters should avail of these legal remedies instead of relying on foreign individuals and groups to pressure the government into releasing her.
Guevarra’s call came after several US senators pushed for De Lima’s release.
“If you believe that the charges against you are not true then slug it out, fight it out, file a demurrer to evidence. If you want to file a petition for bail, so there are so many legal remedies available to her,” Guevarra said.
A demurrer to evidence is filed by a party asking the court to junk a case due to the insufficiency of evidence presented by the prosecution.
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