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  Home > Philippines

De Lima to stay in jail


 October 11th, 2017  |  10:18 AM  |   2220 views



SC upholds her arrest, detention on illegal drugs trading charges


The Supreme Court (SC) affirmed on Tuesday the arrest and detention of Sen. Leila de Lima on illegal drugs trading charges filed against her by the Department of Justice (DOJ) last February.


In a decision, the SC dismissed De Lima’s petition to nullify the arrest order issued against her by the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC), to order her release from detention, and to stop further proceedings on the illegal drug trading charges filed against her.

“Wherefore, the instant petition for prohibition and certiorari is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. The Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa City, Branch 204, is ordered to proceed with dispatch with Criminal Case No. 17-165. SO ORDERED,” the dispositive portion of the decision stated.


Under the rules, De Lima has 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration.


SC spokesman Theodore O. Te said the decision was arrived at in a 9-6 vote of the 15 justices. He said there are 11 separate opinions – five concurring and six dissenting.


Te said the decision was written by Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. and concurred in by Justices Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Mariano C. del Castillo, Samuel R. Martires, Noel G. Tijam, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Alexander G. Gesmundo.


Those who dissented were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno and Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio, and Justices Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, Francis H. Jardeleza, and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa.


Copies of the decision and the dissenting and concurring opinions were not immediately available as of press time.


Three issues


In a press briefer issued by Te, he said that the SC addressed three substantive issues in the De Lima petition, to wit:


“Whether the Regional Trial Court or the Sandiganbayan has the jurisdiction over the violation of Republic Act No. 9165 averred in the assailed Information.

“Whether or not the respondent gravely abused her discretion in finding probable cause to issue the Warrant of Arrest against petitioner.

“Whether or not petitioner is entitled to a temporary restraining order and/or status quo ante order in the interim until the instant petition is resolved or until the trial court rules on the motion to quash.”

Te said the SC ruled that “it is Regional Trial Court that has jurisdiction over the Information that charges petitioner with violation of Section 5 in relation to Section (jj), Section 26(b), and Section 28 of Republic Act No. 9165.


He said the “Court did not agree with petitioner’s characterization of the offense as “Direct Bribery” under the Revised Penal Code but maintained that the allegations in the Information are sufficient to characterize the offense as a violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act (RA 9165). For this reason, the Court pointed out that RA 9165 specified only one court with jurisdiction to try offenses under the law, the Regional Trial Court.”


He also said that the SC “noted that the exclusive original jurisdiction of the RTC over violations of RA 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, and that the Sandiganbayan’s jurisdiction is limited to violations of the anti-graft laws and do not extend to violations of the drugs law.”


Judge Guerrero “did not gravely abuse her discretion in finding probable cause to order the petitioner’s arrest,” Te said.


He said: “The SC noted that there was no positive duty on the part of respondent judge to first resolve petitioner’s motion to quash before issuing a warrant of arrest; the Court noted that there is no rule of procedure, statute, or jurisprudence to support this claim. On the other hand, it pointed to Rule 112, Sec. 5 of the Rules of Court which imposes a 10-day period from the filing of the charge for the judge to personally evaluate the resolution of the prosecutor and the supporting evidence. For this reason, the Court found that respondent judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed order dated February 23, 2017 even before resolving petitioner’s motion to quash.”


“The Court also found that the text of respondent judge’s order did not violate petitioner’s constitutional rights and is not contrary to established jurisprudence on determining probable cause. The Court disagreed with petitioner’s assertion that respondent judge did not personally determine probable cause for the issuance of the warrant of arrest simply because the judge relied on the evidence presented during the preliminary investigation and not on the report and supporting documents submitted by the prosecution. 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,” he said.


Rule on hierarchy of courts


At the same time, Te said that “the SC ruled that, procedurally, petitioner had violated the rule on hierarchy of courts and the prohibition against forum shopping and that her petition was also premature. The Court also found that the petition was not properly executed under oath and that the jurat (certification) was defective for not having subscribed to the same in the presence of the notary public.”


In her petition, De Lima pleaded the SC to issue a status quo ante order (SQAO) that would lift immediately the arrest order issued by RTC Judge Juanita Guerrero who found probable cause on her criminal liability.


She also pleaded for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would stop the criminal proceedings before the trial court.


But her pleas were not granted by the SC which conducted oral arguments on the petition.


The lady senator was arrested last week of February and is now detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Quezon City.


Her co-accused, Rafael Marcos Z. Ragos – former officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) – has surrendered and has been committed for detention by the trial court at the NBI in Manila.


Another co-accused, De Lima’s former driver and former alleged boyfriend Ronnie Palisoc Dayan had been arrested and is detained at the Muntinlupa City jail.


In Criminal Case No. 17-165 raffled to the sala of Judge Guerrero of Branch 204, De Lima, Ragos, and Dayan were charged with “illegal drug trading in violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Section 5 (sale), in relation to Section 3 (jj) (trading), Section 25 (b), and Section 28, Republic Act No. 9165.”


De Lima has two other criminal cases pending with two other branches of the Muntinlupa RTC. These cases for illegal drug trading and criminal liability of government officials and employees under RA 9165 are pending with Judge Amelia Fabros Corpuz of Branch 205 and Judge Patria Manalastas De Leon of Branch 206, respectively.


In Branch 205, De Lima was charged together with his nephew Jose Adrian Dera, while in Branch 206 she was indicted together with former BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu, Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, former bodyguard Jonel Sanchez, Dayan, and Dera.


Last February 14, the three criminal cases were filed by the DOJ on complaints lodged by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC); the NBI; former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala, and inmate Sebastian.


SC verdict hailed


Solicitor General Jose Calida lauded the SC decision.


“Let me express my deepest gratitude to the learned Supreme Court Justices who penned the decision that will be entrenched in our jurisprudence,” Calida said in a statement.


Calida said the decision of the high tribunal shows that “no one is above the law.”


“This landmark case enthrones the majesty of the law which is no respecter of men and women however privileged they are,” he said.


“This decision further negates the erroneous perception that the government’s war against drugs is waved only against the unlettered and the underprivileged,” he said.


Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II likewise welcomed the SC decision.


“I think that’s a correct decision,” Aguirre said after the SC en banc voted 9-6 against the petition of De Lima.


“It’s the decision we have been fighting for. Tama lang (It’s right) that our position that the RTC has jurisdiction has been vindicated,” Aguirre added.


Decision assailed


But the Senate minority bloc expressed disappointment at the SC decision.


“Nakakalungkot. Ang aking paniwala ay dapat Ombudsman ang mag-hear nito (It’s saddening. I truly believe it should be the Ombudsman that must hear this). But I respect the decision of the Supreme Court,” said Drilon, a lawyer and former Justice secretary.



Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the SC ruling is “quite unfortunate” as it virtually puts a stamp of legitimacy on the political persecution and injustice being done to their colleague.


“It also highlighted Duterte’s total control and manipulation of the three branches of government for his evil political ends. Dapat tindigan natin ito (We should stand up to this),” Trillanes said.


Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she is dismayed at the SC decision but vowed to continue to fight for De Lima’s release.


“Nananawagan ako sa lahat ng mamamayang nagmamahal sa demokrasya at karapatang pantao na patuloy nilang ibigay ang kanilang suporta kay Sen. Leila (I am calling all people who love democracy and human rights to continue supporting Sen. Leila),” Hontiveros said.


“Sa panahon ng dilim at lagim, higit kailan man, taimtim nating ituloy at lalong palawakin ang laban para sa katotohanan at katarungan (In the time of darkness, we need to continue the fight for truth and justice),” she stressed.


Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said he, too, respects the SC decision.


“We respect the decision of the Supreme Court. They’ve studied the case thoroughly than us here,” Pimentel said.


“Anyway, may second review pa siya (De Lima), the court itself hearing her case,” he added.


The opposition Liberal Party (LP) expressed its regrets at the SC decision.


The party cited the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution which states in Section 1 that, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”


“This is an incontrovertible right that must be afforded Sen. De Lima, who we believe is innocent and is simply a victim of political persecution.” (With reports from Jeffrey G. Damicog, Hannah L. Torregoza, Mario B. Casayuran, and Vane P Terrazola)






by Rey Panaligan


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