No instant relief for Leila; SC suspends action
DETAINED Senator Leila de Lima failed to get immediate relief from the Supreme Court, which decided to solicit comments on her petition for a temporary restraining order from the Muntinlupa City regional trial court, the Philippine National Police and the Office of the Solicitor General, before resolving her plea.
In its en banc session, the Court deferred taking action on her plea to stop the proceedings in the drug cases against her, and to nullify the arrest warrant issued against her by the Muntinlupa RTC.
Instead, the justices ordered the RTC, the PNP and the Office of the Solicitor General to comment within 10 days on De Lima’s petition, and set the case for oral arguments on March 14 before deciding on her pleas.
A court insider said the justices did not see the need to decide right away on De Lima’s petition without hearing the case in oral arguments, even though the Court has the power to do so and has done so in many past cases.
In her petition, De Lima questioned the RTC’s jurisdiction over her case, saying it should have gone to the Sandiganbayan.
De Lima, who is now detained at the PNP custodial center, said the allegations against her do not actually constitute sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, but rather only direct bribery.
Under the law, she said, the charges should fall under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan and not the RTC because her position at the time was secretary of Justice.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday scored De Lima’s lawyers for insinuating that the Justice Department charged her with the wrong offense before the Muntinlupa city regional trial court.
“It seems that her lawyers are acting like state prosecutors. They should know that it is the job of prosecutors to determine what charges to file otherwise, the person would just say, indict me for bribery and not for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act. It is the prosecution who solely determines what charges should be filed against the person accused,” Aguirre said in an interview.
“The accused cannot interfere or suggest what charges to be filed against him. If the rule were otherwise, absurdity will follow. It will be the accused who will choose the charges to be filed against him. Of course, the accused will choose the offense with the lighter penalty,” he added.
Aguirre made the statement after De Lima’s lawyers Alex Padilla and Fhilip Sawali claimed that the panel of prosecutors headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong only filed the drug trafficking charges against the lawmaker to ensure that she would not be able to post bail and be detained even if there is no allegation, much less evidence, directly linking her to the illegal drugs trade in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
De Lima’s lawyers said she should have been indicted for direct bribery, even though they stressed the evidence on this is also questionable.
If direct bribery was the offense filed against De Lima, the jurisdiction of the case would have been the Sandiganbayan and not the RTC.