Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought for the inhibition of Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 due to obvious partiality and questionable independence to hear the illegal drug trading charge filed against her.
In her 23-page Motion for Inhibition and to Defer Arraignment she filed last Thursday, De Lima also asked the High Tribunal to defer her arraignment pending the resolution of the Motion for Reconsideration (MR) she filed with the Supreme Court (SC).
“It is incumbent upon this court to hold in abeyance the scheduled arraignment. Otherwise, such an act would be tantamount to this court pre-empting the Supreme Court and arrogating unto herself the authority to have a final say on the jurisprudential effect of the Supreme Court’s Decision,” she said.
De Lima, who has long protested her unjust arrest and unfair detention, pointed out that Guerrero has “displayed an unseemly and undue haste” in ensuring her detention and depriving her of liberty.
The case for illegal drug trading lodged at Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 originated from the complaint filed by former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer in charge Rafael Ragos, and De Lima’s former driver Ronnie Dayan, before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The complaint – which made use of perjured testimonies of convicted felons during the Congressional Hearing – focused on illegal drug trading allegedly committed from Nov. 2012 to March 2013, while De Lima served as DOJ Secretary.
According to De Lima’s camp, however, the prosecutor filed a Motion to Amend Information last Nov. 10 but the Senator’s counsels have yet to receive a copy of the said motion.
De Lima maintained Guerrero should stop from conducting further proceedings on her cases because the judge has supposedly violated the Senator’s constitutional rights repeatedly.
Noting the events that transpired in the past year, De Lima recounted Guerrero’s illegal issuance of a warrant of arrest against her, the judge’s inaction of the MTQ, and the latter’s scheduling of the Senator’s arraignment prior to deciding on the pending MTQ and MR 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,” she stated.
“An impartial judge, acting on the red flags indicating serious infirmities and irregularities that attended the preliminary investigation of the case, would have given greater respect and protection to the accused constitutional rights,” she added.
On Feb. 23, Guerrero ordered the arrest of De Lima even without resolving her Motion to Quash (MTQ) – which questions the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court on handling her case – that was expected to be heard the next day, Feb. 24.
Last Oct. 10, the High Tribunal ruled against De Lima’s petition to nullify the arrest warrant issued against her by Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 for the trumped-up charge of illegal drug trade allegedly committed when she was justice secretary.
In her 24-page MR on Nov. 3, De Lima said the High Tribunal should immediately rectify the continuing grave injustice committed against her because the majority of its members cannot even agree on the nature and cause of accusation against her.
“It is clear, therefore, that proceeding with the arraignment, while the precise question of what is the nature of the charge against accused De Lima, would be a gross violation of her constitutional right to be accorded due process of the law, and to be informed of the nature of the charge against her,” she stated.
“If not even the members of the Supreme Court, reading the exact same Information, can agree on the nature of the charge, how can this court validly claim that the arraignment it has scheduled would properly apprise the accused of the nature of the charge against her, enable her to enter a provident plea, and mount an intelligent defense,” she added.
De Lima concluded that Guerrero “acted with evident partiality and bad faith in compounding the violations of constitutional rights suffered by accused De Lima.”
The scheduled arraignment on Thursday of De Lima at Branch 204 of the Muntinlupa City RTC was rescheduled to Jan. 24, 2018.