The Court of Appeals is consolidating the petitions of Senator Leila de Lima questioning the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice in conducting the preliminary investigation of five drug complaints against her.
In a four-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting, the appellate court's 17th Division ordered the merger of the case with the CA 6th Division, which carries the lower docket number since De Lima's first petition was raffled to that division first.
The case before the 6th Division pertains to the consolidated cases before the DOJ in connection with De Lima's alleged involvement in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade; the case before the 17th Division involves De Lima's alleged receipt of drug payoffs from self-confessed drug distributor Kerwin Espinosa.
"[L]et CA-GR SP No. 149358 be Consolidated with CA GR SP No. 149097, the latter case having the lower docket number, in accordance with Section 3, Rule III of the 2009 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals, subject to the conformity of the ponente thereof and with right of replacement with a case of similar nature and status.'
"The consolidation of two or more actions is authorized where the cases arise from the same act, event or transaction, involve the same or like issues, and depend largely or substantially on the same evidence, provided that the court has jurisdiction and that consolidation will not prejudice the substantial rights of any of the parties," the resolution read.
In her separate petitions, De Lima pointed out that the Office of the Ombudsman, not the DOJ, should handle the preliminary investigation of the complaints since the offenses alleged were supposed to be committed in the performance of her duties as Justice Secretary, and considering her salary grade of 31.
Last February 10, the CA's 6th Division denied De Lima's plea for temporary restraining order (TRO) for failure to show proof on her claim of irreparable injury.
"Mere allegations of the existence of the above named requisites, absent proof, cannot be the basis for the issuance if an injunctive writ," the resolution, penned by Associate Justice Nina Antonio-Valenzuela.
The DOJ had junked the case against De Lima involving the alleged drug payoffs with Espinosa but indicted her, along with several others, in connection with the NBP illegal drug trade.
The NBP-related drug complaints were filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala, and NBP inmate Jaybee Sebastian.
The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC), through Executive Judge and Branch 204 Presiding Judge Juanita Guerrero, ordered De Lima's arrest on February 23; she was arrested the day after, February 24, and is currently detained at the national police custodial center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.