De Lima wants judge out of her case due to 'bias'
MANILA, Philippines – The trial of detained Senator Leila de Lima has moved at a slow pace since she was arrested and jailed February 2017, and it’s not about to move faster after the senator asked a Muntinlupa judge to inhibit herself from the case.
De Lima filed on Monday, October 15, the motion against Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 206 Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo who, the senator said, has shown “manifest bias, partiality, and hostility” toward her.
Because of De Lima's motion, the scheduled hearing on Tuesday, October 16, was again reset.
Drug convict Engelbert Durano was supposed to take the witness stand in the hearing inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Reporters have lost count of how many times hearings have been reset since February 2017, due to motions filed by both the De Lima camp and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Too hot to handle?
De Lima is in jail over what she has described as trumped-up drug charges against her initiated by the Duterte administration.
A fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, De Lima led investigations into Duterte's alleged involvement in killings in Davao – both in her capacity as former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and senator.
Three judges had previously inhibited in the cases of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade against De Lima. One opted for early retirement.
The first one to inhibit from her case was Judge Juanita Guerrero, who issued the first warrant of arrest against De Lima.
Domingo took over one of the 3 cases that have been passed along different salas of the Muntinlupa trial court. Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz handles the two others. (READ: Much ado about calls: Judges hit for ‘late’ warrants vs De Lima)
Grounds for inhibition
Domingo’s approval of drug convicts as state witnesses are among the reasons why De Lima wants her to inhibit.
De Lima said Domingo issued the order allowing the drug convicts as witnesses even before her lawyers could file a rejoinder. The judge's move violated her right to file the proper pleadings, according to the senator.
There was also an incident where De Lima’s motion was not accepted for being filed 5 minutes past the 4:30 office closing hours, even as the senator’s lawyers said the delay was because the process server of the court was not at his desk when the motion was filed at 4:24 pm.
De Lima also pointed out that Domingo has restricted media access to her hearings, which are public. Judge Corpuz allows media to cover the hearings.
Rappler has sent a written request to Domingo to cover the hearings, but it was rejected verbally by a court staff.
“These incidents, taken collectively, coupled with the apparent hostility of the Honorable Judge to the media to observe her manner in the conduct of the proceedings when she issued a verbal order preventing members of the media from gaining access to the courtroom during the trial of the case, no longer indicate mere lapses in judgment or innocent actions that were not intended to prejudice the defense of the accused,” De Lima said.
The DOJ has amended its accusation against De Lima, from committing illegal drug trade to conspiracy to commit illegal drug trade.
The senator said this proves the government has nothing on her. – Rappler.com