Focus on the real issues, De Lima camp urges SC

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2017 02:57 PM

MANILA – The camp of Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to “focus on the real issues” after the Office of Solicitor General supposedly resorted to technicalities in asking for the dismissal of the senator’s petition to have her case dismissed.

Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier told the Supreme Court in a manifestation that De Lima supposedly falsified the notarization of her pleading. He said this should be a basis for the dismissal of the detained senator’s petition.

However, De Lima’s legal counsel, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, said the court must focus on the real issues which their camp raised during the first round of oral arguments last week.

“The way the case is being framed is a fight between procedural technicalities and substantive questions. What we would like of course for the court to do is to focus on the real issues on this case,” Hilbay said.

During the first round oral arguments, Hilbay said the case against De Lima should be dismissed since the Department of Justice and the Solicitor General have “incompatible” positions on which case should be filed against the senator.

Hilbay said while the DOJ sought to charge De Lima for violation of Section 5 of the law, the OSG’s position stated that the senator should be charged under Section 26 b, or the “attempt or conspiracy” to trade illegal drugs.

He also argued that the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court, which ordered the arrest of De Lima in February, has no jurisdiction over De Lima’s case.

He argued, since De Lima was a government official at the time of the supposed commission of the crime, the Office of the Ombudsman is the proper body to investigate the complaints against her and decide whether cases should be elevated before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

“Those are the real questions here. Even if we go back to the RTC, we’re gonna end up in the SC anyway. We’re already here. We’re asking the court to decide on the substantive issues already,” he said.

During the oral arguments, several justices raised the possibility that De Lima’s camp may have committed forum shopping by going straight to the SC despite their pending petitions before the Muntinlupa RTC.

To this, Hilbay said, “Even if we go back to the RTC, we’re gonna end up in the SC anyway. We’re already here. We’re asking the court to decide on the substantive issues already.

“Justices usually play the devil’s advocate during oral arguments. They are trying to test the merits of the case. They are trying to see whether we can hurdle the procedural barriers, whether we have enough arguments to compel the court to overlook the direct resort to the Supreme Court and proceed to the substantive merits of the case.”