De Lima asks SC to quash arrest

Sen. Leila M. de Lima wants Supreme Court (SC) to immediately set aside the warrant of arrest and commitment order issued against her in connection with a criminal case for drug trading.

By way of urgent relief, the Senator asked the High Court to immediately issue a Status Quo Ante Order to restore the situation of the parties to the case prior to issuance of the arrest order last Feb. 23.

She filed with the Supreme Court a petition questioning the legality of her arrest and detention pursuant to the arrest order issued by Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court, Branch 204.

De Lima argued that Judge Guerrero committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when she issued the order and the arrest warrant.

The senator pointed out that the judge’s acts likewise violated her constitutional, legal and procedural rights.

She maintained that Judge Guerrero acted with undue haste and inordinate interest as it has yet to resolve the Senator’s Motion to Quash that has been set to be heard last Feb. 24, given the voluminous records submitted to the latter’s court.

“Haste, when unduly applied in the context of the criminal justice system, such that it constitutes a blatant failure to respect and uphold a person’s fundamental rights, and to observe the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution to protect the rights of the accused, it results in something far more destructive, more pestilent and graver than mere imperfection,” she said in her 82-page petition.

De Lima is currently detained at the Philippine National Police’s Custodial Center for alleged violation of Section 5 (sale) in relation to Section 3 (jj trading), Section 26 (b) and Section 28 or the criminal liability of government officials and employees of Republic Act 9165, also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

“The Court must first resolve the issue of lack of jurisdiction before issuing a Warrant of Arrest, because such act is itself an exercise of jurisdiction, which we precisely object” De Lima’s legal spokesman, Alex Padilla, said.

“The issuance of a Warrant of Arrest by a court that has no jurisdiction over the case makes such Warrant obviously and patently null and without basis, thus making Senator De Lima’s detention on the basis thereof illegal,” he added.

Last Feb. 20 when the case filed against her was raffled off to Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204, De Lima filed a Motion to Quash the information (charge sheet) and to hold the issuance of warrant of arrest pending the resolution of the question of jurisdiction.

De Lima also argued that it is the Sandiganbayan – not the Regional Trial Court – that has jurisdiction over the offense she was accused to have allegedly committed when she was the Secretary of Justice during the Aquino administration.

She also pointed out that the criminal acts she purportedly committed, specifically that she demanded, solicited and extorted money from inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), are distinct from the charges actually levied against her before the court.

“There is no allegation, much less proof from the records that would show that the criminal activities of the NBP inmates were participated in by the accused,” she said in her petition.

Furthermore, De Lima maintained that the evidence submitted does not justify the filing of the case in court, especially since there is no evidence that any crime was actually committed and the evidence of the crime of illegal drug trade was not established.

De Lima also pointed out that the case filed against her relies solely on the testimonies of highly questionable witnesses who are disqualified from being discharged as state witnesses, having been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude.

“This is probably why they were not charged in the first place. No court would have allowed their discharge as witnesses. The credibility of these witnesses, who are lifers and are in the custody of the DOJ, are highly suspect, to say the least,” Padilla said.

De Lima noted that 12 of the so-called state-witnesses presented by the prosecution team have been convicted of heinous crimes, six of whom have pending criminal cases before the Muntinlupa RTC.

“The panel of prosecutors who should serve as bastions of the rule of law, completely ignored the glaring character of the testimonies against the accused as hearsay evidence that have no probative value,” she said.

Among the convicts who were used as state witnesses are Nonilo Arile, Jojo Baligad, Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Rodolfo Magleo, Noel Martinez, Jaime Patio, Jaybee Sebastian, Vicente Sy, Hans Anton Tan, Froilan Trestiza and Peter Co.

Angara: De Lima entitled to due process

For his part, Sen. Sonny Angara said that Senator de Lima is a colleague and she is entitled to all the protection that our justices system accords to Filipino citizen.

“We hope she’s accorded due process. We hope her security and safety are assured. I think it’s a test also for the administration to ensure that she’s safe, because if something happens to her, then who’s the number one suspect? It will appear that there’s an effort to harm her. There’s a lot at stake for everyone here,” he added.