OSG seeks dismissal of De Lima’s plea before SC on legality of arrest

MANILA-- The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has sought the dismissal of the petition filed by detained Senator Leila De Lima before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of her arrest in connection with the drug charges filed against her.

In an 91-page comment, the OSG Solicitor General Jose Calida said that the SC would "deny due course" and "dimiss" the petition filed by De Lima for lack of merit.

Calida said that the SC should dismiss De Lima's petition because she did not follow the hierarchy of courts; and it should be dismissed because she is guilty of forum shopping.

"De Lima is engaged in forum shopping. The present petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Honorable Court raises essentially the same issues and arguments as those she presented in her motion to quash before the RTC," Calida said.

In her petition, the detained Senator insisted that it was the Ombudsman, not the Department of Justice (DOJ) who has jurisdiction over her, being a public official.

In the same manner that it is the Sandiganbayan, not the Regional Trial Court who should handle the criminal cases filed against her.

But Calida said the authority of the DOJ to conduct preliminary investigation is anchored in the 1987 Administrative Code.

He added that the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman exercises concurrent jurisdiction in the power of investigation involving penal laws.

The Senator, Calida said was also estopped from insisting that the DOJ had no jurisdiction over her because on March 29, 2012, she, then, Secretary of Justice, signed a memorandum of agreement with the Office of the Ombudsman recognizing the concurrent jurisdiction of both bodies when it comes to erring public officials.

"The MOA belies De Lima's posturings," Calida said.

With the MOA, the government's lead counsel said "De Lima is also barred by estoppel from claiming otherwise: she herself recognized the concurrent jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman and the DOJ."

Calida added the Regional Trial Court, not the Sandiganbayan has the exclusive jurisdiction over drug cases as stated in the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The Senator insisted that she is a victim of political persecution being a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"To establish political harassment, an accused must prove that the public prosecutor, not just the private complainant acted in bad faith in prosecuting the case or has lent himself to a scheme that could have no other purpose than to place respondents in contempt and disrepute."

In this case, however, Calida said De Lima failed to show "a shred of evidence that she is a victim of political persecution."

Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero issued the arrest warrant last Feb. 23.

While Judge Guerrero followed the constitutional and procedural rules in the issuance of the questioned order and warrants of arrest. She also did not commit grave abuse of discretion in the issuance of the order and warrant of arrest.

"De Lima who was supposed to uphold the law, and her position to further her own ambition and at the same time aid those who want to destroy our country and its future by propating illegal drugs. This is the highest form of depravity as it involves not only commission of a crime, but a mockery of the oath she took as a servant of the Filipino people," Calida said.

Named respondents in the petition filed by De Lima are Muntilupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero and the Philippine National Police.

Last Feb. 28, the SC deferred ruling on De Lima's pleas for issuance of temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the proceedings in the drug cases against her and status quo ante order on the arrest warrant issued last week by Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 204 that would allow her release from detention.

De Lima, now detained at the PNP custodial center, argued that the allegations against her do not actually constitute sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act), but rather only direct bribery.

The Supreme Court is set to hold an oral argument on this case on March 14.

Separate cases for three counts of drug trafficking were filed against De Lima before the Muntinlupa RTC which were assigned to three different courts.

The cases for sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act) were assigned to RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero, Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz and Branch 206 Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon.

The first case in Branch 204 includes De Lima, Dayan and Ragos.

De Lima was joined by her nephew Jose Adrian Dera in the second case in Branch 205.

The third case in Branch 206 was against De Lima, Dera, Dayan, former BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu, his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, and De Lima's former bodyguard Jonel Sanchez.

Source: Philippines News Agency