MANILA–Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno ordered both parties 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 to submit the documents regarding their stands on the matter.
In a four-page en banc resolution, Sereno said that the documents to be submitted related to the investigation conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the cases filed against De Lima as well as records of the hearings conducted by the House of Representatives and the Senate on the issue.
Also to be submitted are the affidavits and documents pertinent to the issuance of the DOJ of its joint resolution on the case dated Feb. 14, the transcript of stenographic notes (TSNs) of the hearing before the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and before the House of Representatives Committee on Justice in relation to the said DOJ resolution as well as the committee report of the said committees of the Senate and the House.
The SC also directed the submission of the administrative issuances on the transfer of Bilibid inmates to other correctional facilities to include but not limited to the administrative structure and procedure for the transfer of inmates and the grant of privileges up to the cell level as well as resolutions or orders granting immunity to witnesses and those admitting them to the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program.
It added the TSNs of the proceedings in the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court, which proceeding were mentioned De Lima’s camp lead counsel and former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay during the interpellation.
Sereno said the documents must be submitted “not later than the Court’s office hours on March 17, Friday.”
The first oral argument on Tuesday that lasted for three hours and a half ended at 5:30 p.m. and will continue on March 21 for the presentation of the government’s side by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
The oral arguments focused on six procedural and substantive issues on the plea of de Lima to nullify the arrest warrant issued by a Muntinlupa court in connection with the drug trafficking charges filed by the DOJ against De Lima.
On the procedural side, the SC will determine whether or not de Lima is excused from compliance with the doctrine of hierarchy of courts considering it said that the petition should have been filed first with the Court of Appeals and whether or not the pendency of the motion to quash the information before the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 renders the instant petition premature.
Likewise, the SC will also rule whether the petition violated the rule on forum shopping considering the pending motion to quash she filed before the trial court and a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals questioning the preliminary investigation conducted by the DOJ.
On the substantive issued, the Court will determine whether the Muntinlupa RTC or the Sandiganbayan has the jurisdiction over de Lima’s case and whether or not the respondent-Judge Juanita Guerrero-gravely abused her discretion in finding probable cause to issue the arrest warrant.
The Court will also decide whether or not the petitioner is entitled to a temporary restraining order and or a status quo ante order in the interim until the instant petition is resolved or until the trial court rules on the motion to quash.
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
The DOJ earlier presented eight high-profile Bilibid inmates in the said congressional hearing where they pointed to detained senator Leila de Lima as the protector behind the proliferation of the illegal drugs trade in the national penitentiary.
The DOJ alleged de Lima received around P10 million in drug payoffs from November 2012 to early 2013 through her co-accused, former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos.
Ragos said he delivered the money to de Lima’s residence in Paranaque City where it received by her former driver Ronnie Dayan, who is also a co-accused in the case.
The said inmates were temporarily transferred to the AFP Custodial Center in Camp Aguinaldo after their testimony due to security consideration.
De Lima has denied the accusations and during the oral arguments Tuesday on her petition to the SC seeking to nullify the arrest warrant issued by Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero, her counsel, Hilbay pointed out that the inmates are not qualified to become state witnesses under Rule 119, Sec. 17 and Section 33 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act since they have been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude, an express disqualification under the Rules of Court and RA 9165.
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.