THE Justice Department has asked the Muntinlupa City regional trial court to issue a gag order to prevent all parties from discussing the cases filed against Senator Leila de Lima in public because doing so would be sub judice.
Under the sub judice rule, a case under judicial consideration may not be discussed in public, particularly in the media.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong said the gag order would cover De Lima and her lawyers, government prosecutors, the other accused and their lawyers, as well as his boss, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
De Lima and several others are facing charges for violating several provisions of the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002 for the narcotics trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.
“We are not allowed to talk while the case is pending,” Ong said.
Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Leilia Llanes backed Ong’s manifestation, saying De Lima’s lawyers were conditioning the minds of the public that the case filed against the accused are weak.
“So if possible for both parties from prosecutor panel and the accused refrain from saying things that might affect the minds of the public,” she said.
De Lima’s lawyers said the judge has yet to rule on the gag order.
On Friday, government prosecutors sought to consolidate the three drug cases filed against De Lima.
In a motion filed before Muntinlupa City RTC, Branch 204, the prosecutors from the Justice Department moved for the consolidation of all three drug charges into one.
“Record shows that the cases arose from similar sets of facts; there are common parties and issues, and interrelated evidence will be presented in court,” Ong said.
He said the three cases could be tried jointly by one branch of the regional trial court in Muntinlupa City, according to the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, he said.
Other members of the prosecuting panel—Senior Assistant City Prosecutors Alexander Ramos, Leilia Llanes and Evangeline Viudez-Canobas; and Assistant State Prosecutor Editha Fernandez signed the motion.
“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 Justice Department motion said.
The three separate cases against De Lima 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 first count in Branch 204 also included De Lima’s former driver and lover Ronnie Dayan and National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Rafael Ragos as her co-accused.
On the other hand, De Lima is joined by her nephew Jose Adrian Dera in the second count in Branch 205.
Lastly, the third count in Branch 206 included former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, De Lima’s former bodyguard Jonel Sanchez, Dayan and Dera also as accused.
De Lima’s lawyer objected to the motion, saying the prosecutor wanted Guerrero to handle the three cases.
”We oppose because we feel they want Judge Guerrero to hear the case when we know that it was Guerrero who issued the warrant of arrest against Senator De Lima,” De Lima’s lawyer Lorelee Granado said.
Guerrero issued the arrest warrant on Feb. 23, while the two others decided to first hear De Lima’s motion.
De Lima on Friday warned President Rodrigo Duterte and his officials “who blindly enforce his illegal order to kill, fabricate evidence and concoct lies” will be held accountable in due time.
De Lima released a letter to the spokesmen and other defenders of the President and Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa, who deny the daily killings are state-sponsored.
“I say to you—stop insulting the intelligence, stop fooling the people and the rest of the world,” said De Lima who is detained at the PNP Custodian Center in Camp Crame over drug charges.
“As I keep on saying, truth has been the major casualty in the so-called war on drugs,” also said De Lima.
Opposition senators castigated anew President Duterfe for violating the people’s right to human dignity in his government’s war against illegal drugs.
Senator Risa Hontiveros condemned Duterte’s war on drugs as inhumane, abusive, and corrupt, and described it as “murder in the guise of law enforcement.”
Also on Friday, Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan asked Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to return the Senate security of De Lima in Camp Crame.
“There should have been negotiations for the Office of the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms to come closer, and not be 50 meters away,” Pangilinan said.
On Wednesday night, Pimentel told Senate reporters that Senate security personnel has been removed from the Philippine National Police Custodial Center where De Lima is detained, as they were posted far from her cell and were thus “useless.”
The Senate security personnel wre pulled out on Monday.
The Liberal Party believes that De Lima has been arrested and detained to silence her as she has been a fierce critic of President Duterte from her time as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights during the Arroyo administration.
The government, on the other hand, has accused her of profiting from the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her time as Justice secretary.
De Lima has repeatedy denied the drug charges saying they were part of efforts of President Duterte to exact revenge against her for her sharp criticism of his policies, particularly the bloody war on drugs.
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