MANILA — Two Muntinlupa courts on Thursday granted the request of detained Sen. Leila de Lima to see her ailing mother through a video conference call.
Citing humanitarian grounds and urgency of the request, Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 Judge Romeo Buenaventura and Branch 204 Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara allowed the lawmaker’s plea.
Earlier in the day, De Lima filed separate urgent motions before the two courts handling her drug cases, detailing how her 89-year-old mother, Norma Magistrado de Lima, tested positive for COVID-19 in January this year.
She was brought to the Villanueva-Tanchuling Maternity and General Hospital in Iriga City, Camarines Sur on Jan. 22.
But after her pulse rate, oxygen level and other vital signs started to drop on the night of Feb. 1, she was moved to the NICC Doctors Hospital in Naga City the next day, according to copies of the motions furnished to the media.
“Given the positive COVID-19 tests previously administered, in addition to Ms. De Lima’s advanced age and overall declining health, it is extremely urgent that Accused De Lima be given the opportunity to see her mother, even through online video conferencing, without further delay, preferably within the day,” the motions read.
In August 2019, De Lima was allowed to visit her mother for a few hours in Iriga City during a critical illness.
Since her arrest on drug charges in February 2017, the senator was only able to see her mother thrice — the two other times during a Christmas visit at the Custodial Center in Camp Crame in December 2018, and during the celebration of her son’s passing the Bar Exams in June 2019.
“Accused De Lima appeals to the utmost kind consideration of the Honorable Court, as a daughter who want to be able to see her mother during this critical time,” the motions said.
Alcantara, who is handling De Lima’s case with her former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, initially ordered the DOJ panel of prosecutors to comment on the motion. But since the Supreme Court declared a court holiday on Friday due to the Bar Exams, it went on to decide in favor of De Lima’s motion due to time constraints.
For his part, Buenaventura, who is handling De Lima’s cases with several other accused including Dayan and former Bureau of Corrections Director Franklin Bucayu, immediately granted the motion.
According to De Lima’s staff, the videocon pushed through, although no additional details or pictures were available as of writing.
De Lima's cases stem from allegations she is involved in the illegal drugs trade at the New Bilibid Prison. She denies all accusations and say these are politically motivated as she is a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.
A third drug case against her was junked in February last year due to insufficiency of prosecution’s evidence, but her case with Dayan was sustained.
She appealed the ruling of Branch 205 Judge Leizel Aquiatan and moved for her inhibition.
PROSECUTION TEAM PROMOTED
Meanwhile, two prosecutors handling the drug cases against de Lima got promoted to Prosecution V, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced Wednesday night.
Ramoncito Ocampo, Jr. will now be Bulacan provincial prosecutor, while Laurence Joel Taliping is appointed Marikina city prosecutor.
But Ocampo will continue to head the prosecution panel handling De Lima's two pending drug cases, said Guevarra.