De Lima wants convicts against her as accused in drug case

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 07 2019 03:25 PM

Senator Leila de Lima. File

MANILA- The camp of detained Sen. Leila de Lima has asked a Muntinlupa court to include 13 convicts due to testify against her as among the accused in a drug case she is facing.

In a 12-page motion filed on March 1, De Lima asked Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 256 to include the following as accused:

- Herbert Colanggo
- Engelberto Durano
- Noel Martinez
- Reynante Diaz
- Jaime Patcho
- German Agojo
- Hans Antonio Tan
- Peter Co
- Joel Capones
- Vicente Sy
- Rodolfo Magleo
- Jojo Baligad
- Froilan Trestiza

All have prior convictions and are serving sentences at the New Bilibid Prison for crimes ranging from homicide and murder to kidnapping and illegal drug trafficking. 

They are listed as prosecution witnesses in the conspiracy to commit illegal drug trafficking case against De Lima.

In her motion, De Lima said the 13 witnesses are not ordinary witnesses but are in fact "major players and perpetrators of illegal drug trading." 

De Lima had earlier objected to the admission of the 13 as state witnesses against her and sought their disqualification before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206, which handles a separate drug case against her. 

Branch 206 Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo, however, denied De Lima’s motion, prompting the senator to ask for the judge’s inhibition.

Domingo inhibited on Nov. 5 but insisted that she had ruled correctly. De Lima questioned Domingo's ruling before the Court of Appeals.

The DOJ has not categorically stated if the 13 convicts were being used as state or ordinary witnesses except to say that no convicted person has been used as a state witness under Rule 119 of the Rules of Court.

Under that rule, a state witness refers to a person who has been charged with an offense but is later discharged so he/she can testify. 

Since the convicts were not included in the complaint, they are not considered state witnesses, Guevarra said, echoing Domingo's ruling against De Lima’s motion.

In her motion filed with Branch 256, De Lima accused the prosecution of violating the equal protection clause and manifest partiality towards the 13 witnesses when it decided not to charge them.

She said there was no need to discharge the witnesses because the prosecution already had an "overwhelming number of witnesses" and that the 13 would only provide self-serving testimonies.