De Lima asks CA to stop DOJ action on Bilibid drug trade raps

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2017 05:05 PM

Senator Leila De Lima

MANILA - Senator Leila De Lima has asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop the Department of Justice (DOJ) from proceeding with its preliminary investigation into criminal cases against her in connection with the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade.

In a 46-page petition for prohibition and certiorari filed on Monday, De Lima told the appellate court that the DOJ has no jurisdiction over the consolidated cases, stressing that it is the Office of the Ombudsman which has sole jurisdiction over offenses against public officials who shall undergo trial before the Sandiganbayan.

"[A]s the charges against petitioner (De Lima) are all within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, pursuant to Section 4 of PD No. 1606, as amended, and over which the Office of the Ombudsman has primary and exclusive jurisdiction to investigate… the instant cases should be endorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman," the petition read.

De Lima cited Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II's public pronouncement that the cases will still be forwarded to the Ombudsman.

"It is a waste of time and government resources if the DOJ would still pursue the investigation on these cases after conceding that it is the Office of the Ombudsman which has primary jurisdiction over these cases, and that nonetheless the DOJ would still submit its findings to the Office of the Ombudsman," the petition read.

De Lima's petition was raffled to CA Associate Justice Danton Bueser.

The lady senator raised the same legal issue during the preliminary investigation before the DOJ, but her plea was denied.

She also pointed out the alleged bias of the DOJ against her, considering that President Duterte and Aguirre have already publicly "prejudged" the case.

"The integrity of the investigation in the cases... appears to be seriously tainted and deeply compromised, as no less than the President and the DOJ Secretary in tandem with each other, and, at numerous times, acting separately, have prejudged the guilt of respondent...

"In this environment, where the President and the DOJ Secretary have complete control and supervision over the work of their subordinates at the DOJ, it is a foregone conclusion that the conduct and the results of the investigation will not be impartial and objective," the petition read.

De Lima asked for the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of preliminary injunction to stop the proceedings before the DOJ while her petition is being heard on its merits.

The complainants in the consolidated cases before the DOJ are the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC); National Bureau of Investigation (NBI); former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala; and NBP high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian.

De Lima also faces a separate drug-related complaint involving her alleged dealings with self-confessed drug distributor Kerwin Espinosa.

In the two cases, De Lima is accused of benefiting from drug payoffs to fund her senatorial bid.

Both cases are now submitted for resolution and will be decided by the DOJ anytime.