SENATOR Leila de Lima on Tuesday asked the Court of Appeals to stop the Justice Department from conducting a preliminary investigation on the string of cases filed against her in connection with her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
In a petition, De Lima asked the appeals court to issue a temporary restraining order to enjoin the Justice Department’s panel of prosecutors from conducting the preliminary investigation, which she said violated her right to due process.
The panel, she said, committed “serious errors of jurisdiction,” including issuing verbal and unrecorded rulings, refusing to put these rulings in writing, denying the petitioner‘s right to file her counter-affidavit, and submitting the cases for decision without first resolving her motions to endorse the cases to the Office of the Ombudsman in view of lack of jurisdiction of the Justice Department.
In her petition, De Lima also cited “the institutional hostility that has noticeably been engendered by the personal hostility of the President himself and his men, specifically Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Solicitor General Jose Calida,” against her and their prejudgment of her supposed involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Because of this, she said, she no longer expected justice or due process in the Justice Department proceedings.
The public pronouncements of the President and Aguirre in prejudging her were “indubitably implicit instructions” to the panel to file the cases in court regardless of the actual evidence.
She said the preliminary investigation conducted by the panel headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong was “all but a charade.”
De Lima initially questioned the DoJ’s jurisdiction in a motion submitted to the panel of prosecutors, but it was dismissed.
Ong said the panel considered that De Lima has waived her right to counter the allegations against her and submitted the case for resolution.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, National Bureau of Investigation, former NBI deputy directors Ruel Lasala and Reynaldo Esmeralda and high-profile NBP inmate Jaybee Sebastian had filed charges against De Lima before the DoJ for her alleged involvement in the narcotics trade when she was still Justice secretary.
Leaders of the House of Representatives also filed before the Quezon City metropolitan trial court a charge of disobedience against her for her refusal to attend the House’s inquiry on the proliferation of illegal drugs.
De Lima said the panel of prosecutors committed grave abuse of discretion by proceeding with the preliminary investigation since it has no jurisdiction, which belongs to the Office of the Ombudsman.
House leaders led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez welcomed Tuesday the decision of the Senate ethics committee finding the complaint of the House of Representatives against De Lima sufficient in form and substance.
Alvarez said the finding of the Senate committee shows the House leadership has sufficient basis to accuse De Lima of contempt of the House of Representatives in violation of existing laws and for committing an unparliamentary act.
“Now she can no longer hide behind innuendos and accusations that the House leadership is out to persecute her. She has to give valid and convincing answers to our allegation or face sanction from her own peers for violation of the law and unparliamentary acts,” said Alvarez.
The House filed a complaint before the Senate ethics committee for advising her former driver-lover Ronnie Dayan, through his daughter Hannah Mae, to go into hiding to avoid testifying before the House committee on justice.
Alvarez, House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte and House Justice Committee chairman Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro are the complainants against De Lima in the charges filed before the Senate ethics committee.
Fariñas said the decision of the Senate ethics committee will give them the chance to prove the basis of their complaint.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member of the House majority bloc, said De Lima must answer the complaint leveled against here within the period prescribes by the law.
The complaint said that “as an incumbent Senator, former Secretary of Justice and a lawyer, advising and inducing Mr. Dayan to hide and not to attend and/or appear in the House inquiry for which she was duly summoned, is tantamount to restraining or inducing disobedience to a summon issued by Congress, of which she is a sitting member, in violation of Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code.”
By doing so, De Lima also “interfered in a congressional inquiry conducted by the House committee on justice, the complaint said.
She also committed an unparliamentary act when she called the House justice committee a “kangaroo court,” House leaders said.
The Senate ethics committee said they would give De Lima 15 days to submit her answers to the charges against her.
“We trust in the objectivity and sound judgment of the members of the ethics committee and we are confident that we would be vindicated in pursuing the charges against Senator De Lima,” said Alvarez.
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