Senator Leila de Lima filed a petition before the Supreme Court on Monday, February 27, questioning the legality of the arrest and detention order issued by Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC).
De Lima’s petition asked the Supreme Court to set aside the arrest order and commitment order issued by Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204, and requested to immediately issue a status quo ante order to restore the situation prior to issuance of arrest order.
De Lima said in a statement on Monday that Judge Guerrero committed grave abuse of discretion when she issued the order and the arrest warrant, which violated her constitutional, legal and procedural rights.
“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,” de Lima said in her 82-page petition.
On Feb. 20 de Lima filed a motion to quash the information and to hold the issuance of the arrest warrant pending the resolution of the question of jurisdiction, the statement said.
On Feb 23, the Muntinlupa RTC ordered the arrest of De Lima, Ronnie Dayan, de Lima’s former driver and bodyguard, and ex-Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos for their alleged involvement in illegal drug trade in New Bilid Prison (NBP).
“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” Alex Padilla, de Lima’s legal spokesman, said in a statement.
De Lima’s camp said that it is the Sandiganbayan-not the RTC-that has jurisdiction over the offense she was accused to have allegedly committed when she was Secretary of Justice during the Aquino administration.
“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,” Padilla said.
They 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,” the petition said.
“Furthermore, she 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,” the petition stated.
De Lima’s camp also argued that the case filed against her were based on the testimonies of questionable witnesses that have 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’s camp said that 12 of the so-called state-witnesses presented by the prosecution team have been convicted of heinous crimes, 6 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,” the statement read.
De Lima is currently detained at the Philippine National Police custodial center at Camp Crame in Quezon City after she was arrested and voluntarily surrendered to the Criminal Investigation and Detention Group (CIDG) on Friday, Feb. 24.
Meanwhile, Ronnie Dayan has been under the custody of Muntinlupa City Jail while Rafael Ragos was ordered by the court to be detained at the NBI detention center.