MANILA–The two new Associate Justices of the Supreme Court (SC) are set to participate in the oral arguments on the petition filed by detained Senator Leila De Lima questioning the legality of her arrest in connection to the drug raps filed against her.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s first two newly-appointed SC Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Noel Tijam are expected to attend on the high court’s oral arguments set for Tuesday.
On Friday, Martires and Tijam attended the pre-oral arguments conference before the deliberation room of the high court in order to determine the issues which shall be tackled regarding De Lima’s case during the oral arguments.
Martires, the 175 justice of SC has already taken his oath before Duterte last Wednesday in Malacanang while Tijam, the 176 SC justice has taken his oath before SC Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. last Thursday.
Tijam takes the position of Associate Justice Arturo Brion who retired last Dec. 29, 2016 while Martires took the position of Associate Justice Jose Perez, who retired last Dec. 14, 2016.
President Duterte is expected to appoint at least 10 justices in the SC during his six-year term.
There will be two more vacancies during the election period after his term.
Meanwhile, De Lima’s petition for certiorari with prayers for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and or a temporary restraining order, asked the high court to set aside the arrest warrant issued last Feb. 23 by Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero and to stop her from conducting further proceedings.
De Lima also asked the SC to issue a status quo ante order aimed at restoring the status prior to the issuance of the arrest warrant.
Last Feb. 28, the high court has just allowed De Lima to stay in detention after the SC refused to issue a stay order on her plea to stop the trial of her drug trafficking case pending before the Muntinlupa court.
Instead, the SC Justices have just set the case just for comment and oral arguments.
De Lima, now detained at the PNP custodial center, argued that the allegations against her do not actually constitute sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act), but rather only direct bribery.
Under the law, petitioner stressed that such charges should fall under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan – not the RTC – because her position at that time was secretary of Justice which has salary grade higher than 27.
Separate cases for three counts of drug trafficking were filed against De Lima before the Muntinlupa RTC which were assigned to three different courts.
The cases for sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act) were assigned to RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero, Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz and Branch 206 Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon.
The first case in Branch 204 includes De Lima, Dayan and Ragos.
De Lima is joined by her nephew Jose Adrian Dera in the second case in Branch 205.
The third case in Branch 206 is against De Lima, Dera, Dayan, former BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu, his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, and De Lima’s former bodyguard Jonel Sanchez.