De Lima lawyer says it's regular; OSG says falsified
MANILA - The camp of detained Senator Leila de Lima debunked the Office of the Solicitor General's (OSG's) claim that she falsified the notarization of her petition before the Supreme Court (SC) which seeks the nullification of her arrest warrant on drug trading charges in connection with the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade.
De Lima's counsel, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, told magistrates of the high court during Tuesday's continuation of oral arguments on De Lima's petition that the lawmaker took her oath before sorority sister Atty. Maria Cecille T. Cabalo on February 24 at around 9 a.m. at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) compound inside the police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The allegation of falsification is contained in a 6-page manifestation, dated March 13, 2016, signed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
The OSG alleged that De Lima "falsified the [notarization] appearing in the: a) verification and certification against forum shopping page of the instant petition; and b) affidavit of merit in support of her prayer for injunctive writ," which is a ground for the dismissal of the case.
Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr., the justice-in-charge of De Lima's petition, raised the issue of the OSG's manifestation, stressing that if the OSG's allegations had basis, it was a "serious breach" of court processes.
"Senator De Lima said today that the Office of the Solicitor General's statement on the alleged defect on the notarization of her petition to the Supreme Court is a false allegation. It has no factual basis. The notary public met with her in Camp Crame; the notary public was in Camp Crame when she was brought there," Hilbay told the high court, reading portions of a statement De Lima made.
Hilbay submitted to the SC an affidavit executed by Cabalo, which narrated that De Lima got in touch with her "on the evening of February 23," informing her that her services would be sought when De Lima's petition is finalized.
DE LIMA NOT SEEN SIGNING AFFIDAVITS, COPS SAY
Calida, however, pointed out that his office attached to their manifestation a joint affidavit from members of the Philippine National Police – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group - National Capital Region which effected De Lima's arrest at around 8 a.m. of February 24 and conducted her booking in their Camp Crame office; as well as an affidavit executed by Superintendent Arnel J. Apud, chief of the Philippine National Police Custodial Service Unit in Camp Crame, which attest to the fact that Cabalo did not administer De Lima's oath.
"From the time that she was in our custody, no untoward incident transpired. Further, she was not seen signing any documents, affidavits, nor taking her oath in relation to any document before any notary public," read the joint affidavit of CIDG-NCR's Senior Superintendent Belli B. Tamayo, Chief Inspector Melvin R. Montante, Senior Inspector Lea L. Galvan, and SPO4 Candice A. Abalayan.
"All visitors entering the PNP Custodial Center are required to present identification cards and enter their names in the log book and this procedure was strictly enforced when the companions of Sen. De Lima were allowed to accompany her inside the premises of the PNP Custodial Center. I am certain that Atty. Maria Cecile C. Tresvalles-Cabalo is not among those who accompanied Sen. De Lima when she was brought to the PNP Custodial Center since the name of Atty. Maria Cecile C. Tresvalles-Cabalo does not appear in the log book of the PNP Custodial Center," the affidavit of Apud, meantime, read.
Calida said they will be pursuing administrative and criminal charges against De Lima and Cabalo over the matter.
"Remember she was arrested and she was surrounded by these police officers. Sino'ng nagsisinungaling dito? (Who’s lying here?)" Calida told reporters in an ambush interview.
In its manifestation, the OSG pointed out that the only chance for Cabalo to have administered De Lima's oath was in Camp Crame since Cabalo's commission as notary public was only limited to Quezon City, and considering that the supposed notarization's date is February 24, 2017, the day De Lima was arrested.
De Lima's arrest was ordered by Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Executive Judge and Branch 204 Presiding Judge Juanita Guerrero, who handles one of three drug trading cases filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against De Lima over the NBP illegal drug trade.
Based on criminal the informations, De Lima caused high-profile NBP inmates to sell large volumes of methamphetamine hydrochloride ("shabu") to help fund her senatorial bid. The charges are non-bailable and carry the penalty of life imprisonment.
The oral arguments will resume on March 28, with Calida presenting his case on behalf of respondent judge Guerrero and police officials and officers who effected De Lima's arrest and now have physical custody of her.