SC junks De Lima motion to recall arrest warrant
(Updated 4:02 p.m., Oct. 10) Senator Leila de Lima will remain in detention as the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday dismissed her petition to recall the arrest warrant issued against her.
Under the same petition, the senator’s prayer to dismiss the illegal drug charges filed against her was also rejected.
Voting 9-6, the SC en banc ruled to reject De Lima’s motion to recall her warrant of arrest issued by the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.
The six justices who dissented from the main ruling are Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and Francis Jardeleza.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., whom de Lima had asked to inhibit from the case for allegedly pushing the acquittal of a New Bilibid Prison (NBP) drug lord.
According to a summary of the decision sent to the press, the SC ruled that all drug cases are under the jurisdiction of the regional trial court (RTC) and not the Sandiganbayan, regardless of the official’s salary grade and whether the crime was committed in relation to his or her duties.
“It also noted that the exclusive original jurisdiction of the RTC over violations of (Republic Act) 9165 is not transferred to the Sandiganbayan whenever the accused occupies a position classified as Grade 27 or higher, regardless of whether the violation is alleged to have been committed in relation to the office being occupied,” the decision read.
“The Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction is limited to violations of the anti-graft laws and do not extend to violations of the drugs law,” it added.
It also ruled that the judge handling the case, Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204, did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing an arrest warrant against her.
“The Court noted that respondent judge considered all the evidence presented at the preliminary investigation and not simply the report and the supporting evidence the prosecution proposed to present at the trial, which was based on the evidence presented during the preliminary investigation,” the decision noted.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) in February filed three criminal charges against De Lima for supposedly receiving bribes from NBP drug lords in exchange of their protection during her term as Justice secretary. The agency also accused De Lima of using the money from illegal drug trade to fund her 2016 senatorial campaign.
She was charged with three counts of violation of Section No. 5 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 in relation to trafficking and criminal liability of government officials.
De Lima, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
The senator has maintained her innocence and claimed that her detention is the government’s way of silencing her and those who oppose Duterte’s deadly campaign against illegal drugs. /jpv
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.