MANILA, Philippines – What will happen to Senator Leila de Lima after criminal charges connected to illegal drug trade are filed against her?
First is the issue of arrest. Only when a case has been raffled off to a branch can a warrant of arrest be issued.
The charges were filed on Friday, February 17, before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC), but the Muntinlupa RTC raffles off cases on a Monday.
Under rules of criminal procedure, a court shall issue an arrest warrant within ten days from the filing of a complaint should the judge find probable cause. Some judges take several days, some issue warrants immediately.
"Sa tanong niyo po kung sa Monday maaari nang mag issue ng warrant of arrest ang ating judge, ay kung sa pag-assess niya po ay mayroong probable cause, maaari na siyang mag-issue beginning Monday," Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said in a press conference on Friday.
(To answer your question if the judge can issue a warrant of arrest on Monday, if in his assessment there is probable cause, he can issue warrants starting Monday.)
Can De Lima post bail?
Rappler could not immediately obtain a copy of the entirety of the charge sheet, which usually states bail recommendations for the accused, but whenasked on Friday, Aguirre said he believes the charges against de Lima are non-bailable.
“Ang alam ko non-bailable ‘yung violation kasi it is punishable by reclusion perpetua,” Aguirre said. (To my knowledge, it's non-bailable because the violation is punishable by reclusion perpetua.)
De Lima faces 3 counts of violation of Section 5 of the Dangerous Drugs Act. The Dangerous Drugs Act penalizes the "sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of illegal drugs."
Violators of Section 5 of the Dangerous Drugs Act face 12 years to life imprisonment. Under criminal procedures, "no person charged with an offense punishable by life imprisonment shall be admitted to bail regardless of the stage of the criminal prosecution."
De Lima, however, can always file a motion for bail, just like Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile filed theirs for charges of plunder, which is non-bailable.
Should she file a motion for bail, the judge will decide whether to grant it or not. Should the judge deny the motion, she can elevate it as high as the Supreme Court (SC).
Does the DOJ have jurisdiction?
De Lima filed for petitions for prohibition and certiorari before the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop the DOJ from investigating her, arguing in the petitions that the Office of the Ombudsman, and not the DOJ, has jurisdiction in the case against her because she is an elected official.
The CA has already denied De Lima’s urgent motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), which made her bid to stop the DOJ from filing charges against her unsuccessful.
The court, however, has yet to resolve her main petition – prohibition and certiorari – which seeks to nullify the DOJ’s findings.
The CA ordered the DOJ and the complainants to comment on De Lima’s motion within 10 days of receipt, and for De Lima to reply to the comment within 10 days of receipt. This directive was issued last February 11.
Aguirre insisted the cases were filed before the regular courts because De Lima's alleged offenses were not related to her functions as Justice Secretary.
"Confident po tayo na siya ay mahahatulan kasi nasa prosecution po tayo, ito po ay sasabihin ko sa inyo, produkto ito ng national prosecution service, hindi po ako nakialam," Aguirre said. (I am confident that she (De Lima) will be convicted because I am a prosecutor, I would know. But this was the product of the national prosecution service, I was not involved in the resolution of the cases.)