De Lima camp lauds Muntinlupa RTC judge’s inhibition from Senator’s case

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima’s camp has lauded the inhibition of Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 206 from hearing the trumped-up illegal drug trading charge against the Senator.

De Lima’s legal counsel, Atty. Filibon Tacardon, said Judge Navarro-Domingo’s decision shows that there is still hope for the deteriorating legal justice system in the country.

“Para daw mapanumbalik ang tiwala sa sistema, boluntaryo siyang nag-inhibit. Ito’y isang magandang sinyales na may pag-asa pa rin naman talaga ang sistema ng hustisya sa Pilipinas,” he said in an interview.

In a five-page Order dated Nov. 5, Judge Navarro-Domingo inhibited herself from De Lima’s trial “in order to show good faith to all parties concerned.”

“The Court finds no sufficient ground to inhibit herself from conducting trial, however, in order to show good faith to all parties concerned and being within the discretionary power of this Court, the undersigned Presiding Judge recused herself from trying this case,” Domingo said.

At the resumption of the hearing at the designated Court of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) where De Lima personally appeared before the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206, Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo cut the hearing short when she presented an Order declaring that she is inhibiting herself from trying the case.

De Lima, in her 13-page Motion for Inhibition she filed last Oct. 15, sought for the inhibition of Judge Navarro-Domingo due to her display of a pattern of bias and obvious partiality in hearing her case.

In filing the Motion for Inhibition, De Lima said Judge Navarro-Domingo prematurely ruled on her Motion to Disqualify Prosecution Witnesses when she issued an Order dated Sept. 24 denying the latter motion, without waiting for her Reply to the Prosecution’s Comment/Opposition, peremptorily resolved certain motions without benefit of ample study, and at the same time consistently violated the Senator’s right to a public trial, among others.

Meanwhile, Tacardon maintained that De Lima’s camp has nothing personal against Judge Navarro-Domingo, saying that their legal team only wants the Court to accord the former justice secretary her right to a fair trial.

“Ang gusto lang naman namin dito ay yung magkaroon ng patas na trial si Senator De Lima na hindi namin nakita noong ito ay hawak pa ni Judge Domingo. Sa aming palagay baka hindi siya maging patas kaya hiningi namin na siya ay mag inhibit, pumayag naman siya para lang patunayan na wala siyang kinikilingan,” he said.

In a span of roughly two years, four Muntinlupa RTC judges– including Judge Navarro-Domingo — already recused themselves from handling De Lima’s case, while one judge has retired optionally.

Tacardon said the illegal drug case against De Lima will be raffled off to a new judge after the Court settles the impending Motion for Reconsideration of the Prosecution on Judge Navarro-Domingo’s inhibition from the case.

The Prosecution has requested to be given five days to file their Motion for Reconsideration on Navarro’s inhibition from hearing De Lima’s case.

In Criminal Case No. 17-167 lodged before the Muntinlupa – RTC, Branch 206, the Prosecution earlier filed an Amended Information that drastically changed the crime imputed against the Senator from “illegal drug trading” to “conspiracy to trade illegal drugs,” a move questioned by De Lima and her legal counsels.

De Lima is facing trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the Duterte administration before the Muntinlupa RTC Branches 205 and 206 but she has since finally maintained her innocence from the bogus drug charges.

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