The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the consolidation of the two petitions filed by embattled Sen. Leila de Lima questioning the Department of Justice (DOJ) preliminary investigation against her in connection with the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) illegal drug trade.
In a four-page resolution of the CA 17th Division, penned by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting, the appellate court ordered the merger of the case with the CA 6th Division.
This was concurred in by Associate Justices Marlene Gonzales-Sison and Ramon Cruz.
The CA 6th Division handles the first petition filed by de Lima that carries the lowest docket number as compared with the second petition filed by the senator that is being handled by the CA 17th Division.
“Accordingly, let CA-GR SP No. 149358 be consolidated with CA GR SP No. 149097, the latter case having the lower docket number, in accordance with Section 3, Rule III of the 2009 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals, subject to the conformity of the ponente thereof and with right of replacement with a case of similar nature and status,” the resolution read.
“The consolidation of two or more actions is authorized where the cases arise from the same act, event or transaction, involve the same or like issues, and depend largely or substantially on the same evidence, provided that the court has jurisdiction and that consolidation will not prejudice the substantial rights of any of the parties,” it said.
De Lima elevated her case to the CA after questioning the jurisdiction of the DOJ to hear her cases, which she believes must be handled by the Office of the Ombudsman since the drug trafficking charges against her are in connection with her public office as then-Justice secretary.
The ponente of the CA 6th Division is Justice Nina Antonio Valenzuela, who last February 10, 2017, refused to issue an injunctive relief for de Lima that would stop the probe and eventually the filing of criminal charges against her.
Last Thursday, the DOJ indicted de Lima along with her co-accused in the three cases filed before the Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) RTC.
These include de Lima’s ex-boyfriend Ronnie Dayan, Jose Adrian Dera (alleged nephew and close-in security of the senator), Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) former staff Wilfredo Elly, Presidential Security Group member Joenel Sanchez (de Lima’s former security aide) and high-profile drug inmate Jaybee Sebastian.
Her other co-accused charged with one count each are ex-BuCor Director Franklin Bucayu and former National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Rafael Ragos.
Muntinlupa RTC Judge Juanita Guerrero last Friday issued non-bailable arrest warrants against de Lima, Ragos and Dayan.
All of them are now in detention.