SENATOR Leila de Lima vowed to surrender to authorities today, Friday, even as she questioned the warrant of arrest issued Thursday afternoon by a Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) over a non-bailable drug trafficking charge.
“Like what I’ve been saying, I have no plans to run, I have no plans to hide,” an emotional de Lima told reporters who waited for three hours for the former Justice secretary to emerge from her Senate office.
“Tuloy po ang laban ni Leila de Lima (Leila de Lima’s fight will continue)” said the senator before leaving the Senate.
Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 issued the warrant of arrest against the senator in connection with the charges filed last week by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Also ordered arrested were Rafael Ragos, former deputy director of the National Bureau of Investigation, and Ronnie Dayan, the senator’s former driver-bodyguard. Dayan was nabbed in Pangasinan on Thursday afternoon.
As of 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, de Lima said she had yet to receive the arrest order, which she said was questionable as the court had yet to hear her motions to quash or dismiss the case.
She said she was surprised to learn that a warrant of arrest had been issued as prosecutors earlier sought to reset a court hearing to March 3.
De Lima said she would go home first to be with her family before she is taken to jail. She promised to return to the Senate Friday morning and wait for the arresting officers.
The embattled senator thanked her party mates in the Liberal Party (LP) for their support and asked the public for prayers that she would be brought to a safe and secure place.
De Lima was joined by Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th when she faced the media.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed three separate cases against de Lima for her alleged involvement in illegal drug trading inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa when she was DOJ chief.
De Lima immediately filed three motions to quash, a motion for judicial determination of probable cause, and a motion to hold in abeyance the issuance of warrant of arrest.
The senator earlier said that if the courts denied all her motions she would run to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
Dayan, former lover and driver-bodyguard of de Lima, was arrested by policemen in his house in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan.
Dayan did not resist arrest. He was accompanied by his wife and relatives when he was brought to the police station.
Chief Insp. Joshua Maximo, the Urbiztondo police chief, said Dayan would be turned over to the Muntinlupa court on Monday.
Human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, one of the counsels of de Lima, said Thursday the warrant of arrest against the senator was premature.
“The hearing was set for tomorrow, and so we are surprised that this was preempted by the issuance of the warrant of arrest. Under the court rules, the judge will have 10 days to decide from the filing of the information in issuing a warrant, so we really did not expect for this to come out so quickly,” said Diokno, founding dean of the De La Salle University College of Law.
“This will surely be questioned. She can file a motion for reconsideration or motion to lift the warrant of arrest. But for now, she may have no choice but to adhere to it,” Diokno told reporters.
In Malacañang, President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, said de Lima’s arrest order was “karma” but also an opportunity for her to refute all allegations against her.
“The issuance of a warrant for the arrest of Senator de Lima means the issuing court finds probable cause that she may have probably committed the crime charged. She should welcome this development herself as she is now given the opportunity to refute any and all allegations and/or evidence to be presented by the prosecution against her,” Panelo said.
The President’s lawyer said de Lima was being given due process which she “shamelessly denied” former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo when she was still secretary of Justice.
In a separate statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said de Lima’s arrest was “a major step forward” in the Duterte administration’s anti-drug war.
“It is a fulfillment of the campaign promise of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to rid Philippine society of drugs, crime and corruption,” Abella said.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), one of the complainants against de Lima, lauded Judge Guerrero “who issued the [warrant]despite the obvious pressures coming from [de Lima’s]allies and party mates.”
“We urge the other two judges to do the same courageous and judicial act they are obligated to do,” VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez said.
“We have a very strong case against de Lima. We hope she will be detained in an ordinary [cell]like other ordinary Filipinos who have committed a heinous crime.”
Inmates offered P100M?
Prior to the release of de Lima’s arrest warrant, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd bared a supposed P100-million offer for high-profile inmates detained at Camp Aguinaldo to retract their testimonies on de Lima’s drug links on or before February 25, the anniversary of the EDSA “People Power” revolt.
Aguirre said the prisoners declined the offer, made by a former senator and an incumbent legislator from Laguna. He declined to name them.
“They wanted to use this to attract more people to the EDSA anniversary, to mount people power, and they are being offered that they will be released,” he said.
“We are taking the matter very seriously and we will go after those who are responsible,” he added.
Not the first time
It was not the first time that the paths of de Lima and Guerrero crossed. In 2011, de Lima, who was then DOJ secretary, sought the reversal of Guerrero’s decision on the case of the so-called “Alabang Boys,” a group of young men arrested by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for drug possession and sale of prohibited drugs.
Guerrero cleared two of the suspects despite denying earlier their motion for bail.
De Lima in an interview at that time said Guerrero may have committed “gross misappreciation of procedure,” the reason that led to the acquittal of the two suspects.
WITH JAIME G. AQUINO, JOMAR CANLAS, LLANESCA T. PANTI AND CATHERINE S. VALENTE