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De Lima seeks help from SC to overturn Muntinlupa court's arrest, detention orders

InterAksyon file photo of Sen. Leila de Lima
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATE 4 - 2:17 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - Through her lawyers, Senator Leila De Lima on Monday sought the intervention of the Supreme Court in her case, asking the high tribunal to overturn the lower court’s move to arrest and detain her.

In her 82-page petition for certiorari and prohibition with application for a writ of preliminary injunction and urgent prayer for temporary restraining and status quo ante orders, De Lima questioned the jurisdiction of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 under the sala of Judge Juanita Guerrero over the senator’s alleged drug-related charges.

Guerrero ordered the arrest of De Lima on Thursday, February 23, after determining that there were grounds to put the senator on trial over her alleged violation of provisions under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. 

"By way of urgent relief, the Senator asked the High Court to immediately issue a status quo ante order to restore the situation of the parties to the case prior to Judge Guerrero’s issuance of the arrest order last Feb. 23," De Lima's camp said in a statement. 

De Lima surrendered to authorities on Friday and was brought to the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City where she is currently detained. 



'Grave abuse of discretion'

In her petition, the senator alleged that Guerrero had committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when the judge issued the order and the arrest warrant. Guerrero's acts likewise violated her constitutional, legal and procedural rights, according to De Lima. 

She further claimed that Guerrero had acted with undue haste and inordinate interest as it has yet to resolve the De Lima's motion to quash that has been set to be heard last Feb. 24, given the voluminous records submitted to the latter’s court. 

“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 petition.

De Lima's lawyer and spokesman Alex Padilla said the Muntinlupa 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." 

“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,” said Padilla.



'No allegation, proof'

De Lima also pointed out that the criminal acts she had purportedly committed, specifically that she demanded, solicited and extorted money from inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), were 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,” she said in her petition.

Furthermore, De Lima 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.

She said the case filed against her "relies solely on the testimonies of highly questionable witnesses who are disqualified from being discharged as state witnesses, having 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 noted that 12 of the so-called state-witnesses presented by the prosecution team had been convicted of heinous crimes, six 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,” she said.

Among the convicts who were used as state witnesses are Nonilo Arile, Jojo Baligad, Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Rodolfo Magleo, Noel Martinez, Jaime Patio, Jaybee Sebastian, Vicente Sy, Hans Anton Tan, Froilan Trestiza and Peter Co.



In high spirits

De Lima remained in high spirits and was happy to receive visitors after spending her first night in detention. Her media officer, Ferdie Maglalang, said De Lima was confident that she would be able to get justice soon, quoting her as saying that, "I'm not going to stay here (detention cell) very long." 

While in detention, De Lima continued assailing President Rodrigo Duterte, whom she blamed for her arrest, saying it was the chief executive's way of gagging critics of his intensified war on drugs campaign. 

On February 25, during the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power against late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, De Lima denounced the alleged moves of the Duterte administration to play down the spirit of the 1986 uprising. 

“Whatever your status in life, if you’re a government official, a member of media or just an ordinary citizen, the call is clear: in the midst of darkness, let us ignite the spirit of EDSA. Together let us stand up against the repressive regime and dictatorship and join hands in fighting for the truth and justice in our country,” De Lima said in a statement.