The Supreme Court (SC) is poised to deny the petition of Sen. Leila de Lima seeking to nullify her arrest and the filing of drug-related charges against her before courts in Muntinlupa City, a reliable source of The Manila Times in the High Court revealed over the weekend.
With President Rodrigo Duterte having four appointees in the high court – Associate Justices Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo – a majority of up to 10 magistrates is expected to vote in favor of the adverse decision to be penned by Associate Justice Presbiterio Velasco, Jr.
The projected number assumes that the “swing votes” of Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Mariano Del Castillo are cast in favor of the majority decision, the source explained.
Velasco’s draft decision will maintain that the warrant of arrest issued against De Lima was valid and stress that her defense should be threshed out in a full-blown trial.
“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 source, quoting Velasco’s draft decision, told The Manila Times.
De Lima, in her petition, asked the SC to nullify the warrant of arrest issued against her, arguing that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa City does not have jurisdiction over the charges lodged against her.
The directive for her arrest, issued by Judge Juanita Guerrero of Branch 204 of the Muntinlupa City RTC, was rendered with grave abuse of discretion, she maintained.
The senator also argued that it is the Office of the Ombudsman that has exclusive jurisdiction over her case since she was charged on the basis of her allegedly taking advantage of her position as former Justice Secretary to facilitate the proliferation of the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison in order to finance her senatorial bid.
De Lima has denied all the allegations against her.
The SC en banc has included the deliberation on De Lima’s petition in its agenda for September 12.
The source noted that the only possible hindrance to the voting is the absence of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is on leave until September 18.
Sereno is expected to dissent from the majority decision.
The source, however, said the SC en banc might insist on pushing through with the voting despite Sereno’s absence, explaining that the deliberation on the De Lima’s petition had already been postponed and the one-month postponement period had already lapsed.
So far, five SC justices have submitted their separate dissenting opinions which favor the granting of De Lima’s petition — Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Marvic Leonen, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, and Francis Jardeleza.
However, they can still opt to change their minds on the basis of the revised draft to be submitted by Velasco and the separate concurring opinions of Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Samuel Martires.