MANILA—The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Monday has already raffled the three counts of drug charges against Senator Leila De Lima and several others in connection to their alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
DOJ Undersecretary Erickson Balmes confirmed that Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero, Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz, and Branch 206 Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon are set to handle the cases against De Lima, who was charged for violation of Section 5 (sale and trading of illegal drugs) in relation to Section 3 (jj); Section 26 (b), and Section 28 (criminal liability of government officials and employees) of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Based on court procedures, the judges need to determine first if there is probable cause to issue warrants of arrest against the accused. There is no motion filed yet to consolidate the three cases.
Apart from De Lima, those named as co-accused are her former lover and driver Ronnie Dayan and her nephew Jose Adrian Dera, each facing two counts.
Her other co-accused charged with one count each are former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Franklin Jesus Bucayu; Bucayu’s alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli; high-profile Bilibid inmate Jaybee Sebastian; National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Director Rafael Ragos; and de Lima’s former aide Joenel Sanchez.
The charges were filed after the DOJ panel of prosecutors also issued a 52-page resolution dated February 14 on the consolidated criminal complaints filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC); the NBI; former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Rule Lasala; and high-profile Bilibid inmate and self-confessed drug trader Jaybee Sebastian.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Viataliano Aguirre II said that the Muntinlupa RTC has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the three cases filed, regardless of the high position of De Lima as respondent.
”On the matter of jurisdiction, it is the RTC that has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the three cases, regardless of the high position of the respondent. Trading in illegal drugs has no connection with the performance of her duties as Secretary of Justice,” he explained.
He noted the warrants could be released if the judge who will handle the cases determines that there is probable cause to proceed with the arraignment.