Muntinlupa RTC judge inhibits from drug raps vs. De Lima

MANILA -- The judge who is handling one of the three drug charges filed against Senator Leila de Lima has inhibited from the case.

In a four-page order dated Jan. 4, 2018, Mutinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero granted De Lima's motion for inhibition saying that a mere allegation of bias or partiality without proof is not a ground for a judge to inhibit from the case.

However, in order not to cast doubt on the integrity and impartiality of the Presiding Judge and to disabuse the mind of the accused and her counsels who have expressed serious doubts on her objectivity in resolving this case due to the adverse, orders issued against her, the court, acting on its sound discretion, voluntarily inhibits herself from further hearing this case, the order read.

Guerrero said records of the case will be forwarded to the Clerk of Court for re-raffle to other branches of the Muntinlupa RTC.

Likewise, Guerrero cancelled the January 24 arraignment of the senator until the case is transferred to another branch.

The detained senator last year sought the inhibition of Guerrero, citing obvious partiality and questionable independence.

In her motion, De Lima said Guerrero has displayed an unseemly and undue haste in ensuring her detention and depriving her of liberty despite pending petition filed before the Supreme Court.

De Lima cited the judge's inaction on her pending Motion to Quash (MTQ), and the scheduling of the senator's arraignment prior to deciding on the pending MTQ and petition filed before the SC.

The glaringly clear, single-minded over-eagerness to detain accused De Lima based on an invalid information that is irredeemably and irreparably tainted and made defective by, among others, the rampant and blatant violation of accused De Lima's rights, is quite evident, De Lima's camp stated.

The detained senator's camp maintains an impartial judge should have acted on the red flags indicating serious infirmities and irregularities that attended the preliminary investigation of the case and, as a consequence, give greater respect and protection to the accused's constitutional rights.

The judge also denied De Lima's motion to suspend the court proceedings on her drug case pending the resolution of her pending appeal at the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals seeking the dismissal of the drug cases against her.

In the case at bar, as there is no injunction that will stop this court from further hearing this case, Guerrero stressed.

On Feb. 23, 2016, Guerrero ordered the arrest of De Lima and her detention at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center based on the commitment order it has issued.

Aside from Branch 204, the two other cases against De Lima which accused her of receiving millions from illegal drug trade in New Bilibid Prison are now being handled by Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz and Branch 206 Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon.

The first count in Branch 204 also included De Lima's former driver and alleged lover Ronnie Dayan, who is now detained at the Muntinlupa City Jail.

On the other hand, De Lima is joined by her nephew Jose Adrian Dera in the second count in Branch 205.

Lastly, the third count in Branch 206 included former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, De Lima's former bodyguard Jonel Sanchez, Dayan and Dera, also as accused.

Source: Philippine News Agency