Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a motion before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 206 to set aside an order denying her bid to disqualify 13 convicts as state witnesses in the trumped-up illegal drug trade case against her.
In a five-page Motion to Vacate Order filed last Sept. 27, De Lima requested the Court to accord her right to due process by considering the merits of her reply to the prosecution’s opposition against her motion for the disqualification of the witnesses.
De Lima’s camp expects said Motion to Vacate to be heard tomorrow, Oct. 2.
“It is clear that despite the Court’s Order giving the defense counsel five  days to file a Reply, the Court disregarded its own Order and ruled on the Motion to Disqualify Witnesses in flagrant violation of the right of the accused to due process,” she said.
“By ruling with undue haste and flagrant disregard, it has deprived herein accused of the opportunity to properly respond to the Comment/Opposition of the Panel,” she added.
In denying De Lima’s bid to disqualify 13 witnesses “convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude,” Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo said the court found her motion to be “devoid of merit,” thereby allowing the prosecution’s presentation of New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates as state witnesses against De Lima.
The Court order was issued prematurely without waiting for De Lima’s reply to the comment/opposition of the prosecution. Said Reply was filed on Sept. 24, its due date. She said this shows how Judge Navarro-Domingo violated her own order giving her an opportunity to file a reply, and for the prosecution to file a rejoinder.
“[I] only received the Opposition/ Comment of the Panel during the previous hearing held on the 18th of September 2018. The fifth day fell on a Sunday, thus, the Reply was filed immediately on the succeeding day (24 September 2018),” she noted.
In De Lima’s Reply filed last Sept. 24, she reiterated that the law and the rules do not allow criminals convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude to testify as State Witnesses and be admitted into the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“What the Prosecution wants is the exact opposite of what the law provides. There is no more blatant violation of the law on the use of criminals already convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude as State Witnesses than the present attempt of the Prosecution to slip this one through this Honorable Court,” she said.
Under Section 10 (f) of RA 6981, criminal convicts previously convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude — such as murder and drug trading — are disqualified from becoming state witnesses.
As such, De Lima said in her Reply that “this patent violation of the law by the DOJ in admitting into the WPSBP individuals who had already been previously convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude, in spite of Section 10 (f) of RA 6981, gives rise to administrative and criminal liabilities.”
De Lima requested the disqualification as State Witnesses of NBP inmates Nonilo Arile, Jojo Baligad, Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Rodolfo Magleo, Vicente Sy, Hans Tan, Froilan Trestiza, Peter Co, Noel Martinez, Joel Capones, German Agojo, And Jaime Patcho.
De Lima is accused of conspiring with former Bureau of Corrections chief Jesus Bucayu and his former staff Wilfredo Elli, De Lima’s former aides Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez, convict Jaybee Sebastian, and a certain Jad de Vera – to trade drugs inside the NBP to allegedly raise funds for her 2016 senatorial bid.
She has since maintained that the charge is based on the orchestrated lies of the NBP inmates who were illegally admitted as State Witnesses into the WPP in order to testify against her.