Munti court defers De Lima arraignment on 2nd drug charge
The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court has reset the scheduled arraignment of detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Friday regarding her second drug trade complaint, which the defense called “the weakest” among the three charges.
Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Cruz rescheduled De Lima’s arraignment—where she is supposed to enter a guilty or not guilty plea—on Aug. 18.
Atty. Alex Padilla, one of the lady senator’s lawyers, said they have an existing motion for reconsideration with motion to recall the warrant of arrest, and motion to defer arraignment.
The judge gave the prosecution 10 days to comment, and the defense five days to reply to it.
Fabros-Cruz was also the judge which issued the second warrant of arrest against De Lima on June 21 for Criminal Case No. 17-166.
Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero issued the first warrant of arrest against De Lima on February 23 on a different illegal drug trade case—Criminal Case No. 17-165—with former Bureau of Corrections officer in charge Rafael Ragos and her former aide Ronnie Dayan.
Guerrero’s arrest warrant committed De Lima at the Philippine National Police custodial center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
“Hindi namin hinahanapan ng butas. Talagang may butas (We are not looking for loopholes. There is actually a loophole),” Padilla said of the illegal drug trade charge against De Lima and her close-in security detail and nephew Jose Adrian Dera.
According to the Department of Justice, Dera demanded millions of pesos and vehicles for De Lima’s senatorial run from convicted drug lord Peter Co in New Bilibid Prison in March 2016.
De Lima’s lawyers said the former justice secretary could not influence actions inside the national penitentiary, which was managed by the Bureau of Corrections, an agency under the DOJ, since she was a private citizen at that time.
De Lima resigned as DOJ secretary on October 7, 2015, to run as senator in the 2016 elections.
‘Flimsiest, if not weakest among cases’
“This is probably the flimsiest, if not the weakest case the government has filed against Senator De Lima,” Padilla said.
Senior state prosecutor Peter Ong hit back at Padilla, saying “that’s what they say on all the drug cases. They are entitled to their own opinion.”
Padilla said the DOJ prosecutors relied heavily on the statements made by the convicts, which were not credible witnesses.
Ong, however, refuted: “Ano naman ang masama doon? Nangyari ang krimen sa loob ng national penitentiary (So what’s wrong with that? The crime itself happened inside the national penitentiary).”
“Kahit convicted sila, credible pa rin ‘yan kasi sila mismo ang katransaksiyon (Even they are convicted [criminals], these people are still credible because they are the ones who had the transactions with them),” Ong added. JPV/rga
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