DOJ prosecutors seek new judge in De Lima’s final drug case
MANILA, Philippines — A Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors is seeking a new judge to preside over the last drug case of detained senator Leila de Lima.
In a motion filed Thursday, the DOJ prosecutors want the “voluntary inhibition” of Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 Presiding Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara, pointing out that he is the same judge who handed down an acquittal verdict in a “near-identical case” against de Lima on May 14.
Thus far, de Lima has won two of the three drug cases lodged against her.
“Having adversely decided against the People in the previous Criminal Case No. 17-165, the undersigned Panel of Prosecutors cannot help but be apprehensive that the Honorable Presiding Judge will carry over his perceptions to the instant case,” the motion reads.
“Thus, to erase any doubt as to the impartiality of the Honorable Presiding Judge as well as to remove any impression that he will similarly decide on the instant case in favor of the accused, the prosecution most respectfully moves that the Honorable Presiding Judge voluntarily inhibit himself from hearing the instant case,” it further states.
Originally, Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 256 Presiding Judge Romeo Buenaventura handled the case. He inhibited, leading to a reraffle and landing on Alcantara’s branch.
De Lima has been in detention at Camp Crame in Quezon City since February 24, 2017 – months after launching a Senate inquiry into President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs. She was arrested over charges that she was involved in the illegal drug trade, which she repeatedly denied.