MANILA – The camp of Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday again stressed that the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) was out of bounds when it issued the arrest order against the senator last month.
De Lima is seeking relief from the Supreme Court after she was ordered arrested by Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero last month. Her camp says the court has no jurisdiction over the case filed against the senator, who is now jailed on drug charges.
During the continuation of the oral arguments at the SC, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, lead oralist of the De Lima camp, asserted that the court should have first decided on their motion to quash before ordering the senator’s arrest.
“It was incumbent upon [Judge] Guerrero to determine whether her court has jurisdiction precisely because she cannot do anything other than to declare herself without jurisdiction if it turns out she didn’t have any jurisdiction in the first place,” Hilbay told SC Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza.
“Whatever it is she does in exercise of her purported jurisdiction would be rendered futile and useless if reversed by an appelate court.”
Hilbay has argued that since De Lima was a government official at the time of the supposed commission of the crime, the Office of the Ombudsman is the proper body to investigate the complaints against her and decide whether cases should be elevated before the Sandiganbayan.
He said, De Lima’s position as secretary of justice, her salary grade, and the allegation that she used her position to supposedly receive money from drug convicts render her case under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan.
Jardeleza, a former Solicitor General like Hilbay, however, argued that nowhere in the rules of criminal procedure does it state that a motion to quash on the basis of lack of jurisdiction must be resolved first over anything else.
Jardeleza also said that in one civil case dealing with a similar issue, “I cannot find a sentence or anywhere there which says that in a motion to quash based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, it is mandatory that the judge first rules.”
To this, Hilbay replied, “There are so many red flags in this case that the judge could not have bypassed: the fact that petitioner is salary grade 31, the fact that the petitioner was secretary of justice at the time the alleged events took place, and the fact that the information itself alleges that the acts were performed in abuse of authority.”
“These are the red flags that ought to have signaled to Judge Guerrero that the jurisdictional question is so serious that it should take precedence over every other concern,” Hilbay added.