FILE PHOTO: Senator Leila de Lima
The Supreme Court has begun hearing the petition of Senator Leila de Lima which aims to annul her arrest and detention for illegal drug trading charges.
During Tuesday’s oral arguments, De Lima’s lawyer, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay insisted that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Muntinlupa RTC have no jurisdiction over the case.
Hilbay argued that the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan are the ones that must handle the case since the allegation that De Lima demanded and extorted money from Bilibid drug lords happened when she was still the justice secretary.
Thus, DOJ should have referred the investigation to the Ombudsman.
“It is therefore unthinkable how the DOJ could have filed this case before the RTC, and how Judge Guerrero of RTC Muntinlupa could have possibly concluded that she had jurisdiction and issued the warrant of arrest with inexplicable haste,” Atty. Hilbay said.
Hilbay also noted the conflicting positions of the DOJ and the Office of the Solicitor General on the nature of the case.
READ: Senator De Lima declines to enter plea over “disobedience to summons” case
Prosecutors filed information for illegal drug trading before the Muntinlupa RTC but the SolGen in its comment to De Lima’s petition said the senator is being accused of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.
Hilbay said this is a violation of the senator’s constitutional right to defend herself because how can she do it when the charges against her are not clear.
He suggested that this is enough reason for the court to dismiss the case against De Lima.
“The shift from the charge of consummated drug trading under Sec.5 to mere conspiracy to trade drugs under Sec. 26 is the clearest admission that Sen. De lima is not a drug lord,” said Atty. Hilbay. “The shift away from illegal drugs as the corpus delicti to mere agreement to trade in illegal drugs is a clear admission the government’s accusations are not supported by evidence.”
Some justices quizzed Hilbay on the prematurity of De Lima’s petition and possible violation of the rule on forum shopping.
This is because the petition was filed with the SC when De Lima has already pending motion and petition before the RTC and the Court of Appeals.
The oral arguments will resume next Tuesday. – Roderic Mendoza | UNTV News & Rescue