Justice Del Castillo on De Lima drug case: RTC has jurisdiction
MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo said regional trial courts (RTC) have jurisdiction over cases involving violations of Republic Act (RA) 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, even if the offenders are public officials.
This was one of the points he raised in his 5-page separate opinion concurring with the majority ruling issued on Tuesday, October 10, to dismiss the petition filed by detained Senator Leila de Lima.
De Lima, who has been accused of conspiring to engage in the trade of illegal drugs back when she was justice secretary, earlier asked the High Court to nullify the arrest warrant issued against her by Muntinlupa RTC Judge Juanita Guerrero.
De Lima argued that it is the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, not the RTC, which has the jurisdiction over her cases due to her position as a public official.
But Del Castillo, who was among the 9 justices who voted to dismiss De Lima's petition, said that it was not the salary grade of a public official that determines which court would have jurisdiction over the case, but the nature and allegations cited in the Information.
He said that RA 9165 specifically gave the RTC jurisdiction over illegal drugs cases, while the Sandiganbayan was designated as an anti-graft court.
"And since petitioner is being charged with conspiring in trading of illegal drugs, and not with any offense involving graft, it is crystal clear that it is the RTC which has jurisdiction over the matter as well as over the person of the petitioner," Del Castillo wrote.
He added that the mention in the Information accusing De Lima of "taking advantage of public office" does not take jurisdiction away from the RTC. (READ: EXPLAINER: Issues on jurisdiction in De Lima cases)
Del Castillo said the phrases were mentioned in view of Section 28 of RA 9165, which deals with the criminal liability of government officials and employees.
"By their being government officials and employees, their liability is aggravated and would necessitate the imposition of the maximum penalty, pursuant to Section 28," he wrote.
The SC associate justice also scored the petitioner for filing a petition directly with the SC despite the availability of other legal remedies, such as filing a motion for bill of particulars or a motion for judicial determination of probable cause, among others.
"Petitioner's claim, that it was pointless for her to avail of any of these remedies, not only lacks basis but also strikes at the very core of our judicial system," he said.
"Rules are basically promulgated for the orderly administration of justice. The remedies chosen by the parties must be in accordance with the established rules and should not depend on their whims," he added. – Rappler.com