SC schedules oral arguments on De Lima case

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The Supreme Court (SC) set for March 14 oral arguments on the petitions of detained Senator Leila de Lima, SC spokesperson Theodore Te announced in on Tuesday, February 28.

The decision to hold oral arguments on the case was reached during the High Tribunal's en banc session on the same day.

The Court also directed Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Ronald dela Rosa to submit their comments not later than March 10.

It was Guerrero who issued an arrest warrant which the PNP used as basis for their arrest of the senator on February 24.

SC traditionally decides on petitions without the need for oral arguments, but a court insider said the justices opted to hear the petitions first.

If the SC grants the TRO and the SQA, De Lima may be able to get out of jail temporarily.

Rappler learned that the De Lima petitions have been raffled off to SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.

De Lima's petitions — certiorari and prohibition – filed on February 27 through her lawyer Alex Padilla seek to stop the ongoing Muntinlupa case against her and the nullification of her arrest.

De Lima maintained that the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan have jurisdiction over her charges, and not the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Muntinlupa RTC.

She also questioned Judge Guerrero's issuance of an arrest warrant when the court has not yet heard her motion to quash.

In a news briefing on Monday, February 27, Solicitor General Jose Calida said Judge Guerrero had sound legal basis to order the arrest of De Lima.

"The determination of probable cause for the issuance of warrant of arrest should precede the resolution of of De Lima's motion to quash the information. The finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that more likely than not, a crime was committed by the accused," Calida said.

The justice department filed drug charges against the senator based on testimonies of drug convicts, who claimed they paid her in exchange for their protection inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. (READ: TIMELINE: De Lima – from drug probe to arrest)

The opposition senator alleged that the inmates were coerced by the Duterte administration which, she said, wants to silence her. – Rappler.com