MANILA–The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to file a motion for reconsideration after Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 204 denied its motion to consolidate the three drug cases filed against Sen. Leila De Lima.
This was bared by DOJ Undersecretary Erickson Balmes on Sunday.
As per Secretary of Justice Vitaliano Aguirre II), they respect the court decision but will still file a motion for reconsideration.
Senior State Prosecutor Peter Ong said he hopes Judge Guerrero would reverse her decision so it can minimize the resources of government to be used if allowed to consolidate the three cases.
The 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 the 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 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.
Guerrero issued an arrest warrant against De Lima last February 23 that led to the detention of the embattled senator at the Philippine National Police custodial center.
In a two-page order issued last week, Guerrero denied the prosecution’s motion and held that consolidation of the cases would lead to prolonged trial.
“The court finds no merit to consolidate the three aforementioned cases to one court because the accused… are different and cases involve difference incidents,” read the order.
The court agreed with De Lima’s camp argument that the consolidation would not really expedite the trial but would actually prolong it which may violate her constitutional right to speedy trial.
The RTCs have temporarily suspended proceedings in the cases after De Lima questioned her indictment and arrest before the Supreme Court, which already heard her petition in oral arguments last month and is expected to rule on her plea for a status quo ante order that would allow her release from detention.
The senator also asked the High Court to junk the cases against her for allegedly being filed before the wrong court, arguing that the case filed against her should have been direct bribery that falls under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan.
The Supreme Court earlier held oral arguments on de Lima’s petitions.
The three-part 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 Department of Justice.
The SC is set to rule on De Lima’s pleas for issuance of a status quo ante order that would result in her release from detention at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame and nullification of the arrest order issued by the RTC.