De Lima urges SC to assign new judge in drug case

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2020 12:58 PM | Updated as of Jan 21 2020 02:39 PM

MANILA - Detained Sen. Leila de Lima has urged the Supreme Court to assign a new judge to handle one of her drug cases.

This after the judge temporarily assigned to the case allegedly said "she will not be conducting any hearings."

In a letter to Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez sent Tuesday, De Lima claimed Judge Antonietta Medina of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 276, the pairing judge assigned to the case pending before Branch 256, will not hold hearings, pointing out that she had inhibited twice from De Lima's other drug case.

Medina took over from Judge Gener Gito who was relieved from his designation as acting presiding judge of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 in November 2019 under a circular from the Office of the Court Administrator.

De Lima is currently facing 3 drug cases for conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading. 

The case under Medina's sala involves former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, alleged bagmen Wilfredo Elli and Jose Adrian Dera, bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, convicted kidnapper and carnapper Jaybee Sebastian, and De Lima's former aide Joenel Sanchez. 

Among the suspects, Elli is still at large.

In her letter, De Lima said only 5 out of 54 identified witnesses have been called to testify since her arrest in February 2017 and her arraignment in July 2018.

"In view of the foregoing developments, we fervently hope that your good office would act earnestly and immediately on the matter of appointing a presiding judge to hear Criminal Case No. 17-167 pending before RTC Muntinlupa Br. 256," she said.

Six judges have so far withdrawn from handling the cases against De Lima either by inhibiting from the case or by retiring.

These include Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz who opted for early retirement in May 2019, while Judge Juanita Guerrero of Branch 204 who issued the first arrest warrant against De Lima inhibited herself in January 2018.

De Lima, a staunch administration critic, has denied drug charges against her, saying the allegations were political persecution.