No TRO for De Lima petition in SC — SolGen

MANILA-- Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, the government's top lawyer, said that Senator Leila De Lima is not entitled to the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction on the arrest warrant against her and the continuation of her trial before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Muntinlupa City.

De Lima is facing charges in connection to her involvement in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

The senator's petition for certiorari with prayers for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and or a temporary restraining order, asked the high court to set aside the arrest warrant issued last Feb. 23 by Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero and to stop her from conducting further proceedings.

De Lima also asked the SC to issue a status quo ante order aimed at restoring the status prior to the issuance of the arrest warrant.

According to Calida, under the Rules of Court, a preliminary injunction is an order granted at any stage of an action or proceeding prior to the judgment or final order, requiring a party or a court, agency or a person to refrain from a particular act or acts.

On the other hand, he noted that a TRO is issued if the matter is of such extreme urgency that grave injustice and irreparable injury would arise unless it is issued immediately.

A TRO issued by the Supreme Court (SC) or a member thereof shall be effective until further orders.

Calida said the primary requirement in issuing a TRO or an injunction is the existence of a clear and unmistakable right in favor of the applicant.

"Criminal prosecution may not be restrained or stayed by an injunction, whether preliminary or final, because such prosecution is imbued with public interest," Calida said in a statement.

Last March 9, the OSG filed before the SC its comment opposing De Lima's application for preliminary injunction and urgent prayer for the issuance of a TRO.

In its comment, the OSG said although exceptions to the rule that criminal prosecutions may not be stayed or restrained were laid down in the 1990 landmark case of Lino Brocka et al. v. Juan Ponce Enrile, not one of these exceptions is present in De Lima's case.

The OSG stressed in its Comment that should the High Court grant De Lima's application for a TRO or an injunction, it would essentially be deciding on the pending criminal case against her before the trial court.

The OSG added that a full-blown trial is necessary to determine De Lima's guilt for the drug charges against her.

The OSG also argued in its Comment that it is the RTC which has jurisdiction over violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act and that the warrant of arrest against De Lima was properly issued by Judge Juanita Guerrero.

The high court is set to hold an oral argument on this case on Tuesday.

The OSG will be present during the oral argument.

In a previous press briefing, Calida said that De Lima should be tried before the RTC and not in the Sandiganbayan, citing Section 90 of Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, which provides that RTCs have original and exclusive jurisdiction to try and hear cases involving illegal drug activities.

Source: Philippines News Agency