SolGen asks Supreme Court to junk De Lima petition

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2017 03:56 PM

Senator Leila De Lima. File

MANILA - The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petition of detained Senator Leila De Lima seeking to nullify her arrest over drug charges.

In a 7-page manifestation, Solicitor General Jose Calida told the Supreme Court that De Lima supposedly falsified the notarization of her pleading.

The OSG alleged that one Atty. Maria Cecille T. Tresvelles-Cabalo administered the oath on De Lima on February 24, 2017, the day De Lima was arrested upon the order of Branch 204 Presiding Judge Juanita Guerrero. De Lima was ordered arrested over her alleged ties to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade. 

"[P]etitioner falsified the jurats appearing in the: a) verification and certification against forum shopping page of the instant petition; and b) affidavit of merit in support of her prayer for injunctive writ. Consequently, the instant petition should be dismissed, and its concomitant application for temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or status quo ante order (SQAO) denied, pursuant to Section 4, in relation to Section 3 of Rule 7, of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure," the OSG manifestation read.

Falsification is punishable under the Revised Penal Code (RPC), and any lawyer engaging in such offense may be held in indirect contempt of court. Falsification is also a ground for disbarment.

The OSG explained that Cabalo could have only administered De Lima's oath at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City since the former's commission as notary public is for Quezon City.

The OSG stressed that De Lima was moved to Camp Crame after her arrest at the Senate in Pasay City, where she stayed overnight from the evening of February 23 up to the morning of February 24.

"[T]he PNP-CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) arrested petitioner on February 24, 2017 at around 8:00 in the morning. At around 8:41 am, she arrived at the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame, Quezon City for the booking procedure. At 10:18 am she was brought to the [RTC] in Muntinlupa City, Branch 204 for the return of the arrest warrant.

"Respondent [Guerrero] then issued an order directing the commitment of petitioner to the PNP Custodial Service Unit in Camp Crame. At around 11:30 am, petitioner left the Muntinlupa RTC and returned to Camp Crame at 1:00 in the afternoon.

"[T]he only chance for De Lima to swear in before her was to personally appear before Atty. Cabalo. However, De Lima is in prison and even the shadows of Atty. Cabalo was not seen inside the detention cell of the lady senator," the manifestation read.

OSG emphasized that based on the guest logbook at the custodial center, De Lima did not have any visitor by the name "Atty. Maria Cecille C. Tresvelles-Cabalo" last February 24 up to February 25.

"Therefore, contrary to the allegations in the jurats, petitioner did not appear and swear before Atty. Tresvalles-Cabalo on February 24,
2017 in Quezon City," the manifestation read.

The OSG was able to secure sworn statements, including that of custodial center chief Supt. Arnel Apub, who was one of the respondents named in De Lima's petition, which attest to the fact that Cabalo did not physically administer the oath. 

The OSG also noted that Cabalo is a sorority sister of De Lima at San Beda College of Law's Lambda Rho Sigma, which was co-founded by De Lima.

The SC is currently hearing oral arguments on De Lima's petition.

Apart from urging the high court to nullify her arrest warrant, De Lima asked the magistrates to direct Guerrero to resolve her motion to quash the criminal information.

De Lima’s motion alleged that the RTC does not have jurisdiction over her case, and that it should be tried by the Sandiganbayan. She also assailed the preliminary investigation conducted by the DOJ, insisting that the Office of the Ombudsman should have been the proper venue.