Sen. Leila de Lima is expected to remain in prison as majority of the Supreme Court (SC) justices are set to deny her petition to dismiss the illegal-drugs charges filed against her.
Highly placed SC sources told The Manila Times majority of the magistrates are poised to reject the petition of de Lima seeking her release from jail and the nullification of the charges filed against her.
After a series of deliberations, the high court en banc decided to include in the Agenda for Tuesday, October 10, the voting on de Lima’s case. They agreed to vote on the case on that date.
The voting is expected at 9-6 or 8-7 against de Lima, who is detained at the custodial center of the Philippine National Police.
As of this writing, there are six justices, including the chief justice, who are in favor of granting de Lima’s petition. Of the six, five have separately issued dissenting opinions to a draft decision junking the senator’s petition — Justices Antonio Carpio, Marvic Leonen, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and Francis Jardeleza.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has voted in favor of de Lima. She and de Lima are close allies and both were appointees of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
President Rodrigo Duterte has four appointees in the tribunal — Associate Justices Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo. They are perceived to vote against de Lima.
The sources said the ponente of the case, Justice Presbitero Velasco, has swayed the majority to dismiss the petition of de Lima on the basis of his revised draft decision.
De Lima has asked Velasco to inhibit from the case on the ground of “conflict of interest.” Velasco handled the illegal drugs cases of German Agojo who was linked to de Lima. But Velasco refused.
The sources said Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta and Samuel Martires have circulated their separate concurring opinions to the 40-page draft decision of Velasco.
Velasco has recommended that the petition of de Lima be dismissed for lack of merit. The draft decision upheld the authority of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to file the illegal-drugs charges against her before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court.
“Verily, the admissibility of evidence, their evidentiary weight, probative value, and the credibility of the witness are matters that are best left to be resolved in a full blown trial, not during a preliminary investigation where the technical rules of evidence are not applied, nor at the stage of the determination of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Thus, the better alternative is to proceed to the conduct of trial on the merits for the petitioner (De Lima) and the prosecution to present their respective evidence in support of their allegations,” the draft resolution said, according to the source.
The source said the Velasco draft ruled that the lower court judge committed “no grave abuse of discretion” in issuing the arrest warrant against the senator.
“(These) outline a conspiracy to trade in illegal drugs in order to raise money needed for petitioner’s senatorial bid. Thus, the court cannot sustain the allegation that respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed order for petitioner’s arrest,” the source further quoted.
The case of de Lima vs Judge Juanita Guerrero is docketed under GR Nos. 177857-58 and 178193.
De Lima in her petition asked the SC to nullify her arrest warrant and questioned the jurisdiction of the Muntinlupa RTC.
She said the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the warrat despite the fact that she has a pending motion to quash. The senator maintained that the Office of the Ombudsman has jurisdiction over her case because she was charged on the basis that she used her position as Secretary of Justice in relation to the alleged criminal acts, “specifically that she demanded, solicited and extorted money from the [NBP] inmates through her alleged intermediaries/bagmen namely, [Rafael Ragos and Ronnie Dayan].”
The senator argued that there is no iota of proof linking her to the illegal drugs trade.