DOJ appeals ruling on De Lima cases
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sunday said it had sought a reversal of the decision of a Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) rejecting its motion to merge the three drug trafficking cases it filed against detained Sen. Leila de Lima.
“While we respect the [ruling of the] court, we have filed a motion for reconsideration of its decision,” Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said in a text message.
He said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had directed Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, head of the DOJ panel of prosecutors handling the drug charges against De Lima, to ask Muntinlupa RTC Judge Juanita Guerrero to rescind her March 30 ruling.
Ong is a Lex Talionis fraternity brother of Aguirre and President Duterte, who had vowed to put De Lima—the most vocal critic of his brutal war on drugs—behind bars for her supposed role in the narcotics trade when she was still the justice secretary.
Guerrero, who had acquitted the so-called “Alabang Boys” of drug trafficking charges in 2011 due to technicality, had ordered De Lima’s arrest on Feb. 24.
In throwing out the DOJ motion, the judge said there was no reason to consolidate the three separate drug charges against the senator since they involved distinct circumstances.
Ong had petitioned Guerrero to hold just one trial for De Lima to maximize the use of government resources in prosecuting the different cases.
“Justice and expediency demand that it is more practical and will serve the ends of justice to consolidate all three cases in the said branch to avoid unnecessary costs and to prevent the issuance of conflicting resolutions, orders and decisions,” read Ong’s motion.
The criminal complaints against De Lima, who had described them as an offshoot of Mr. Duterte’s “lust for vengeance,” had been raffled off to Guerrero, Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205 and Judge Patria Manalastas-de Leon of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206.
The DOJ had indicted De Lima for trading and selling illegal drugs as defined under Section 5 of Republic Act No. 9165, better known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
But the Office of the Solicitor General practically contradicted the DOJ’s position when it said the senator should have been primarily charged with “conspiracy to engage in illegal drug trading” as mentioned in Section 26(b) of the law according to De Lima’s lawyers.
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