MANILA - (3RD UPDATE) A Regional Trial Court (RTC) has ordered the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima for her alleged involvement in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade.
Presiding Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 issued the arrest warrant.
De Lima's three criminal cases were raffled off to Muntinlupa RTC branches 204 (Judge Juanita Guerrero), 205 (Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz) and 206 (Judge Patria Manalastas-de Leon) last Monday.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre told ANC Thursday he was expecting the issuance of the arrest warrant.
"I am expecting it because we have filed a strong case against the Secretary-Senator and in her defense, she did not file a counter affidavit," Aguirre said.
"The warrant of arrest is inevitable," he added.
Aguirre said "any of the police agencies—the Philippine National Police, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, or even the National Bureau of Investigation could arrest the senator."
"But I prefer that the service of the warrant of arrest be done not by the NBI," said Aguirre.
The order for De Lima's arrest is in connection with the criminal case pending before Muntinlupa RTC branch 204 filed by the Department of Justice.
Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted De Lima for violating sections 5 and 22 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act pertaining to the sale, administration, dispensation, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs.
Several complaints filed by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala, and Bilibid inmate Jaybee Sebastian alleged that De Lima directed high-profile Bilibid inmates to distribute huge volumes of shabu to help fund her 2016 senatorial bid.
Also indicted along with De Lima were her former driver-bodyguard and estranged lover Ronnie Dayan, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director-General Franklin Jesus Bucayu, former BuCor OIC and NBI deputy director Rafael Ragos, Wilfredo Elli, Jaybee Sebastian, Joenel Sanchez and Jose Adrian Dera.
Ragos, in his affidavit and testimony before the House of Representatives, claimed he delivered P10 million to De Lima and Ronnie Dayan in separate occasions.
He said he delivered a bag containing P5 million to Dayan in De Lima's residence in South Bay Village last November 2012. He claimed he saw Dayan hand the bag over to De Lima.
He also claimed delivering a plastic bag full of money from inmate Peter Co to Dayan inside De Lima's house in Parañaque in December 2012.
He also claimed giving P1.6 million to Dayan and another P800,000 for De Lima's expenses after Dayan asked for funds allegedly for De Lima's senatorial bid.
He also claimed delivering P1.7 million to Dayan at De Lima's house on four occasions in January 2013.
De Lima last Monday said she would challenge the jurisdiction of the RTC where the drug cases were filed.
She said her lawyers will be filing motions questioning the jurisdiction of the Muntinlupa RTC over her drug cases.
“Ang principal issue na nire-raise dito ay jurisdictional. Dapat dinerecho iyan sa Ombudsman, hindi sa RTC.”
(The principal issue to be raised here is the jurisdiction of the court. The cases should have been filed before the Ombudsman, not the RTC.)
But Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said recently that the local court is the proper venue to hear the charges.
"On the matter of jurisdiction, it is the RTC that has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the three cases, regardless of the high position of the respondent," Aguirre said. -- report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN New