SC votes to keep De Lima in jail


Posted at Oct 10 2017 11:07 AM | Updated as of Oct 10 2017 07:01 PM

Senator Leila De Lima emerges from her hearing on Drug charges at the Muntinlupa Trial Court, June 30, 2017. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (2nd update) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it has junked detained Sen. Leila de Lima's plea for her release and the dismissal of drug-related charges against her.

Voting 9-6, the High Court en banc dismissed De Lima's petition und upheld the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court's jurisdiction over her drug case.

Outvoted were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Francis Jardeleza, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Mario Victor Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, who had favored De Lima's plea.

The 58-year-old De Lima was accused of accepting drug money from prisoners when she was justice secretary from 2010 and 2015. She is not entitled to bail and, if found guilty, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 

The senator earlier said the Muntinlupa RTC had committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering her arrest when she still had a pending motion to quash. 

She also said the case should have been filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, which has jurisdiction over officials with a salary grade of 27 or above. De Lima had a salary grade of 31 as justice secretary. 

The Office of the Solicitor General, however, said that under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, the RTC has exclusive jurisdiction to try and hear drug cases, regardless of whether the accused is a public official or not. 

Welcoming the ruling, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the case "enthrones the majesty of the law which is no respecter of men and women however privileged they are."

"This decision further negates the erroneous perception that the government's war on drugs is waged only against the unlettered and the underprivileged," he said in a statement.

He added that the Supreme Court's ruling showed its faith in the ability of trial court judges to dispense "justice without fear or favor."

De Lima has rejected allegations against her, claiming she had been locked up to stop her from criticizing the administration's war on drugs that has seen thousands of suspected criminals killed. 

Malacañang has denied that the opposition senator was subjected to political persecution. 

The Supreme Court is set to hold a press conference on its ruling Tuesday afternoon. 

Incidentally, De Lima would not have gained immediate freedom had she won the petition as there is a second arrest warrant against her issued by another branch of the Muntinlupa RTC. 

-- With a report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News