MANILA – Several political opponents of Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday expressed elation over a local court’s arrest order against the embattled lawmaker.
Presiding Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 signed the order to issue an arrest warrant against De Lima.
Guerrero’s branch handles the case against De Lima, her former driver and former partner Ronnie Dayan, and former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, said the “law of karma has finally caught up with the Senator in terms of being arrested and detained.”
Panelo noted, it was De Lima who “effected the arrest of former President (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) despite the absence of a criminal charge and a warrant of arrest she will now be arrested and detained pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by a competent court.”
The presidential legal counsel said De Lima will now be given the chance to refute the allegations against her in court.
“This is where the real battle begins and not in the media that she relishes to use against the President,” he said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who has locked horns with De Lima several times in the past, said the arrest order for De Lima was “inevitable,” noting that the senator’s pending motion to quash the charges would not stand in the way of her arrest.
“The motion to quash will not prevent the issuance of warrant of arrest. As long as the court studied the case…the court has no alternative but to issue a warrant,” Aguirre told ANC.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, meanwhile, said “justice is working in our beloved nation” with the arrest order for De Lima.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, one of those who filed a case against De Lima, said the arrest order for the senator is a "positive development."
"Slowly but surely, the wheels of justice continue to grind against Senator Leila de Lima. The issuance of a warrant of arrest is but the latest in a series of exceedingly positive developments in the war on drugs...," VACC legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio said in a statement.
"We are confident that we can count on the continued vigilance and hard work of all our partners in the criminal justice system in order to bring the drug trafficking cases against Sen. De Lima to its final conclusion: her imprisonment for the rest of her life," Topacio said.
House Committee on Justice Chair Reynaldo Umali, who led a hearing on De Lima’s alleged drug links, said the senator “can ably defend herself, considering her extensive knowledge of the law.”
“On the other hand, the prosecution is now put to task to prove its case. Am hopeful that at the end of the day, the ends of justice is truly served,” he said.
In De Lima’s case under Guerrero’s Branch 204, she is accused of receiving drug money which was delivered by Ragos.
Ragos told a House inquiry in September 2016 he delivered P5 million "quota" for De Lima.
He said they delivered P5 million, which came from convicted drug personality Peter Co, to De Lima's driver, Ronnie Dayan, in November 2012.
Aside from De Lima’s case before the Branch 204, she is also facing charges before the Muntinlupa court’s Branch 205 under Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz. The senator’s co-accused in the cases before this branch is her nephew Jose Adrian Dera.
Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon of Branch 206 handles De Lima’s cases with co-accused Dera, former BuCor chief Franklin Jesus Bucayu and his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, De Lima’s former aide Joenel Sanchez, and NBP high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian.