Leila de Lima

Leila de Lima’s 3 co-accused want Muntinlupa judge to stop handling their case

Jairo Bolledo

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Leila de Lima’s 3 co-accused want Muntinlupa judge to stop handling their case

JUSTICE. File photo of the Muntinlupa City Hall of Justice taken on June 5, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Sanchez, Dayan, and Bucayu ask the judge to inhibit, citing news that surfaced he is 'the brother' of the lawyer 'who assisted accused Dayan in the execution of his affidavit,' which was later claimed to be coerced

MANILA, Philippines – Joenel Sanchez, Ronnie Dayan, and Franklin Jesus Bucayu, former senator Leila de Lima’s co-accused in their pending drug charge, asked Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) 256 Judge Romeo Buenaventura on Tuesday, June 13, to inhibit from their case.

Seeking an inhibition means the accused wants another judge to handle their case. 

In his motion to inhibit, Sanchez noted that “several news surfaced that the Honorable Presiding judge is the brother of Atty. [Emmanuel] S. Buenaventura.” According to Sanchez, Emmanuel Buenaventura was the one “who assisted Accused Dayan in the execution of his affidavit, which was later, testified to by accused Dayan to be coerced.”

De Lima’s co-accused said that the judge’s sibling also served as a legal adviser to the late lawmaker Reynaldo Umali, who used to chair the House committee on justice. The said House panel conducted hearings in October 2016, where Sanchez had been subpoenaed to testify, the motion read.

Sanchez added that the presiding judge never disclosed his relationship to the lawyer Buenaventura “from the start.” The said information is “relevant and material” to the presiding judge’s impartiality and appearance of impartiality in handling the case, Sanchez added.

“We see the failure of the Honorable Presiding Judge to disclose his relationship with Atty. [Emmanuel] S. Buenaventura as a question to his impartiality and cold neutrality, and a violation of the Constitutional right of the accused to due process, which requires that the hearing is conducted before an impartial and disinterested tribunal,” De Lima’s co-accused added.

If the motions are granted, the trial for the pending case will just continue, according to Boni Tacardon, one of De Lima’s lawyers. 

“If given due course, the case, Criminal Case No. 167, will only be transferred to another court and the new judge will pick up from where we ended in the sala of Judge Buenaventura,” Tacardon told Rappler. 

Dayan’s arguments

In his motion, Dayan noted a Facebook post of a certain Berteni Causing on June 8, 2023, where Causing said “the Honorable Presiding Judge Romeo S. Buenaventura is the brother of Atty. Emmanuel S. Buenaventura.” 

Dayan said the fact that Buenaventura is related to the presiding judge “behooves” his “constitutional right as it is an infringement on his right to due process, particularly his right to be heard by an impartial judge.” 

De Lima’s co-accused said there is a conflict of interest on the part of the presiding judge and hence, he “committed gross negligence, if not gross misconduct, in not declaring that fact that he is the brother of Atty. Emmanuel S. Buenaventura.” 

“The personal relationship of the Honorable Presiding Judge to Atty. Emmanuel S. Buenaventura casts doubt on his duty to uphold the stringent standard of the ‘cold neutrality of an impartial judge’ in trying and deciding this case,” Dayan added.

On June 7, Judge Buenaventura denied the petition for bail filed by De Lima and her fellow accused. Despite De Lima’s acquittal in two different Muntinlupa courts, the former lawmaker will still not be freed since her petition for bail had been denied. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.