MANILA — Hours after an arrest warrant was issued against Sen. Leila de Lima on Thursday, the neophyte senator who is currently facing drug trafficking charges, said that she will surrender to authorities on Friday.
In a press conference, De Lima said that since her arrest warrant has yet to be served, she will return home to her family, get some of her belongings and return to the Senate on Friday morning to surrender to authorities.
“Wala pa namang nagse-serve ng warrant of arrest sakin, nais ko muna umuwi para makapiling ko ang aking pamilya,” De Lima told reporters in a press conference.
“Uuwi po ako ngayong gabi at babalik ako dito bukas ng umaga at dito po sa Senado ko hihintayin ang arresting team. Kusa po ako na susuko sa kanila,” she added.
De Lima said that she found the arrest warrant “questionable” noting that there is still a scheduled hearing on two motions she filed to dismiss the charges against her.
The neophyte senator on February 20 filed a motion to quash and a motion of judicial determination of probable cause insisting that it is the Ombudsman and not the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) that has jurisdiction over her case.
She stressed that it is the Ombudsman and eventually Sandiganbayan who has jurisdiction over her case if the Ombudsman should find probable cause.
Meanwhile, she thanked her fellow Liberal Party (LP) senators for their continued support.
LP senators who visited De Lima in her office were Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.
Some members of the Office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms (OSSA) also entered De Lima’s office but left quickly.
A sign “One for Leila” was also posted on her doorway by her staff. Meanwhile, some of her staff later changed into black T-shirts with the words “Laban Leila” on it. They also had blue ribbons pinned on their chests.
De Lima’s media relations officer, Ferdie Maglalang, said that the neophyte senator has already consulted with her legal counsel.
Maglalang said that De Lima’s camp was surprised that an arrest warrant was immediately issued despite reports that the judge handling her case, Juanita Guerrero from RTC 204, just arrived from Macau.
One for Leila
In a joint statement, the LP senators condemned their colleague’s arrest stressing that it is the Sandiganbayan not the RTC which has jurisdiction over her case as her alleged crimes were committed when she was Justice Secretary.
“We assert that the Ombudsman has primary jurisdiction over cases against public officers cognizable by the Sandiganbayan,” the joint statement read.
“Violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which is the DOJ’s case against Sen. De Lima, falls under ‘other offenses committed by public officials’ listed in the Sandiganbayan Law.”
Like De Lima’s camp, they also were shocked by how quickly it was issued noting that the “haste” was “deplorable.”
“Ang balita namin, kararating lang ng Macau nitong judge. Ang alam namin makapal ang motion to quash na finile sa kanyang korte. Basahin naman niya ang motion,” the LP senators said.
They also reiterated that an arrest based on “trumped-up charges” is illegal.
“We maintain that if this warrant of arrest is served, it would be a clear violation of legal proceedings and is therefore a violation of her Constitutional right to due process,” the statement read.
Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero issued the arrest warrant against De Lima and her co-accused, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and her former driver-bodyguard and alleged drug money bagman Ronnie Dayan.
They were charged with violation of Section 5 (sale) in relation to Section 3 (jj trading), Section 26 (b) and Section 28 or the criminal liability of government officials and employees of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
“The court finds probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest against all the accused Leila De Lima, Rafael Marcos Ragos and Ronnie Palisoc Dayan,” the court order read. AZER PARROCHA/PNA-northboundasia.com