MANILA—Department of Justice prosecutors on Friday filed a motion for consolidation before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court to consolidate the three drug cases filed against Senator Leila De Lima in connection with her alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade at the New Bilibid Prison.
The motion filed before RTC Branch 204 sought for the consolidation of all three drug charges and that it should be the one to handle the case.
“Record shows that the cases arose from similar sets of facts; there are common parties and issues, and interrelated evidence will be presented in Court, as the cases are found on the same facts and/or forming part of a series of offenses similar in character,” read the two-page motion signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutors Peter Ong; Senior Assistant City Prosecutors Alexander Ramos, Leilia Llanes and Evangeline Viudez-Canobas; and Assistant State Prosecutor Editha Fernandez.
“Thus, the three cases may be tried jointly by one branch of the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa City pursuant to Rule 119, Section 22 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure,” they cited.
Prosecutors said that “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.”
The three separate cases against De Lima, which accused her of receiving millions from illegal drug trade in New Bilibid Prison, were raffled off to RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero, Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz and Branch 206 Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon.
The first count in Branch 204 also included De Lima’s former driver and lover Ronnie Dayan and National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Rafael Ragos as her co-accused.
On the other hand, De Lima is joined by her nephew Jose Adrian Dera in the second count in Branch 205.
Lastly, the third count in Branch 206 included former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, De Lima’s former bodyguard Jonel Sanchez, Dayan and Dera also as accused.
De Lima’s lawyer opposed the motion for consolidation because the prosecutor wanted Judge Guerrero to handle the three cases.
”We oppose. Kasi we feel they want Judge Guerrero to hear the case. We know naman it was Guerrero who issued the warrant of arrest against Sen. De Lima,” lawyer Lorelee Granado told reporters after the hearing.
Judge Guerrero issued the arrest warrant last Thursday, Feb. 23, while the two others decided to first hear De Lima’s motion.
The government prosecutors also asked the Muntinlupa RTC to prohibit all parties from discussing the cases against Senator Leila De Lima in public.
Ong said under the sub judice rule, once a case is filed in court, all parties are prohibited from discussing the case in public.
Aside from De Lima’s lawyers and the prosecutors, Ong said the senator, the other accused and their lawyers as well as Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II should be covered by the gag order.
“That is the spirit of why we are asking the court for an order directing all parties from the government and the accused to refrain making comment, suggestions and even discussing the merits of the case,” Ong said.
When asked if the manifestation was upon order of Aguirre, Ong said “no, we are just laying down the rule on sub judice.”
As far as De Lima’s lawyers are concerned, they said the request for a gag order still has no effect because the judge still has to rule on it.
”Manifestation pa lang po ‘yun. Wala pang affirmative relief. So as of the moment, wala siyang effect sa amin. Until they submit a written, and judge will rule on that. The manifestation as of the moment has no effect,” Granado said.
The prosecutors have been required to put in writing their manifestation. The lawyers of the accused will still be required to comment on the matter before issuing a ruling on the matter.
The three Muntinlupa RTC branches 204, 205 and 206 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.