Prosecutors want only Judge Guerrero to hear De Lima raps
State prosecutors filed a motion on Friday to hear the three drug cases filed against Senator Leila de Lima in a single Muntinlupa court whose judge also ordered her arrest.
The motion asked Judge Juanita Guerrero to consolidate Criminal Cases No. 17-166 and 17-167 with Criminal Case No. 165, which was filed in her sala at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch (RTC) 204.
According to their motion dated Feb. 27, the three cases “arose from similar set of facts; there are common parties and issues; and interrelated evidence will be presented in the court, as the cases are founded on the same facts and/or forming part of a series of offenses similar in character.”
Peter Ong, senior state assistant prosecutor from the Department of Justice, said the three complaints against De Lima and her co-accused could be tried jointly by a branch of the Muntinlupa RTC as per Rule 119, Section 22 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The rule said the consolidated cases should be assigned to the RTC branch which hears the case with the lowest docket number.
The prosecution said that consolidating the cases “is more practical… and [means to] avoid unnecessary costs and prevent the issuance of conflicting resolutions, orders and decisions.”
The defendants’ counsels were given 10 days to comment on prosecution’s motion.
De Lima’s lawyer Lorelee Granado, however, said they will oppose the motion as all the cases would be heard by Guerrero—the same judge who issued the arrest warrant against the senator just three days after the case was received by Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204.
The camp of De Lima has already sought a petition for certiorari and urged the Supreme Court to issue a status quo ante order and a temporary restraining order, barring Guerrero from hearing her case.
They asked the high tribunal for Guerrero’s inhibition for allegedly prejudging the case and for committing grave abuse of discretion in issuing the arrest warrant with “undue haste and inordinate interest.”
The DOJ prosecutors also manifested before Guerrero a motion for a gag order, compelling both parties to refrain from discussing the merits of the case.
Ong said it was a form of “judicial courtesy” for a lower court to give way to the Supreme Court while the latter resolves the motions filed by the senator.
De Lima, who is now detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City, faces three counts of violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, particularly Section 5 (sale) in relation to Section 3 (trading), and Sections 26(b) and 28, pertaining to her criminal liability as a government official, filed by the DOJ.
Guerrero handles Criminal Case No. 17-165, with co-accused Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s former driver and lover, and Rafael Ragos, former Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) officer in charge and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) deputy director.
Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz of Branch 205 hears Criminal Case No. 17-166 with De Lima’s nephew Jose Adrian Dera as her co-accused.
Criminal Case No. 17-167 is being heard in the sala of Judge Patria Manalastas-de Leon of Branch 206. De Lima’s co-accused here are Dera, former BuCor chief Franklin Jesus Bucayu and his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, De Lima’s former aide Joenel Sanchez and New Bilibid Prison (NBP) high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian.
The cases were based on the complaints by the NBI and watchdog group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption based on the testimonies in the House of Representative’s inquiry on the alleged illegal drug trade inside NBP during De Lima’s term as Justice secretary. RAM/rga
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