Sandigan might drown in cases if we rule for De Lima – SC justices
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Newly appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Noel Tijam raised the possibility of the Sandiganbayan drowning in cases if the SC rules in favor of detained Senator Leila de Lima and sends all similar cases the anti-graft court's way.
During the 2nd round of oral arguments on Tuesday, March 21, Tijam noted there are only 21 justices in the Sandiganbayan who may be exposed to a "floodgate" of cases if they favor De Lima.
De Lima is petitioning the High Tribunal to declare that she falls under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, and not the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC), which is handling all 3 drug charges against her. (READ: EXPLAINER: Issues on jurisdiction in De Lima cases)
"If we rule that officers above salary grade 27 fall under Sandiganbayan, many cases would then be transferred to Sandiganbayan," said Tijam, who was recently appointed to the SC by President Rodrigo Duterte.
SC Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza agreed with Tijam and advised former solicitor general Florin Hilbay to produce data to prove to the High Court that there won't be a floodgate of cases should they get a favorable ruling.
In his earlier interpellation, Jardeleza led Hilbay to provisions under the Bill of Rights that would support their propositions, suggesting the invocation of violation of due process.
"I wish you do a very good job of researching, because that is your only chance to have a strong showing," Jardeleza said.
SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco cited what he called the "far-reaching consequences" on ruling in favor of De Lima's petition. He said that at present, there are 84,908 drug-related cases and 204,000 other criminal cases pending before courts.
"If we allow the procedure you are asking us to rule on right now and we sustain it, then all the accused, close to 300,000 criminal cases, can go directly to the SC and ask us to either suspend the implementation of the warrant of arrest, or first rule on motion to quash, is that what you're asking the Court to do, to set a precedent like that?" Velasco asked.
Hilbay insisted favoring De Lima's petition would not open the floodgates because the senator's case is "unique."
"I am not aware that these hundreds of thousands involve situations where the DOJ didn't have jurisdiction, the RTC didn't have jurisdiction, the DOJ and the OSG have different theories about the case. There's no way, your honor, that there will be opening of the floodgates given the unique procedural posture, substantive posture in the case," he said.
"It is the only case I know where the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General have different theories," Hilbay added.
Hilbay earlier hit the OSG for citing a provision of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act that is different from the provision charged against De Lima in the informations filed before the trial court.
Tijam noted that a similar petition is still pending before the Court of Appeals (CA) which indicate forum-shopping on the part of De Lima.
"Convey to De Lima that the presumption of innocence is still on her side, but I note the undue haste by which you came to this court," Tijam told Hilbay.
SC Associate Justice Samuel Martires, who was also recently appointed by Duterte, focused on the rules of court procedure.
Martires cited Rule 112 which provides the basis for an RTC judge to issue a warrant of arrest.
It says: "If he finds probable cause, he shall issue a warrant of arrest, or a commitment order if the accused has already been arrested pursuant to a warrant issued by the judge who conducted the preliminary investigation or when the complaint or information was filed pursuant to section 7 of this Rule."
"Where does it say in Rule 112 that jurisdiction has to be determined first before you determine probable cause?" Martires asked.
Hilbay answered, "Any person who reads the motion to quash would have, within 5 minutes, recognized that there were problems in jurisdiction."
Jardeleza pointed out that if they declare that it is mandatory for a judge to rule on a pending motion before she can issue an arrest warrant, it would set a precedent for other lawyers to just keep filing motions to keep their clients out of jail.
Jardeleza, also a former solicitor general, advised his successor in the OSG: "Make sure you support your proposition in a way that when favored, it would not hinder the administration of justice."
The 3rd round of oral arguments was set for March 28. – Rappler.com