MANILA, Philippines – A Muntinlupa trial court judge ordered the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday, February 23, over drug charges.
Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 issued the warrant of arrest against De Lima, her alleged bagman Ronnie Dayan, and former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos.
The arrest warrant was issued less than a week after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed charges against De Lima for allegedly receiving drug money from convicts back when she headed the DOJ.
This isn’t the first time that De Lima has been involved in a case that was handled by Guerrero. She was the DOJ secretary in two previous cases handled by the lady judge.
‘Alabang Boys’ case
Guerrero was the same judge in 2011 who dismissed charges against Richard Brodett and Jorge Joseph, two of the so-called “Alabang Boys” who were arrested in 2008 for allegedly possessing and selling 60 ecstasy tablets.
Guerrero questioned the handling of illegal drugs seized by officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during a buy-bust operation.
The court pointed out that then-PDEA chief Dionisio Santiago held a press conference on the seized ecstasy tablets around the same time that PDEA’s forensic chemist had said she was examining the drugs.
“The link in the custody of the drug evidence has been broken…The failure of the prosecution therefore to establish all the links in the chain of custody is fatal to the case at bar,” it said.
“The court cannot merely rely on the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions in view of the glaring blunder in the handling of the corpus delicti (body of the crime) of these cases,” it added.
Then-justice secretary De Lima called the breach in the chain of custody of evidence a “fatal flaw,” but said the DOJ would seek a reversal of the judge’s decision.
De Lima said then of Guerrero, “It’s our consensus that the judge erred in her decision. There is some gross misappreciation of procedure especially in terms of the supposed broken chain of custody.”
In 2014, however, the Court of Appeals upheld the acquittal of Brodett and Joseph.
Rolito Go case
In 2014, Guerrero granted the plea for release of convicted road rage killer Rolito Go, who was sentenced to a 40-year jail term in 1993.
Go was sentenced for shooting De La Salle University student Eldon Maguan in a traffic altercation in July 1991.
He escaped from jail in 1993, but was rearrested in April 1996. Go appealed for executive clemency under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but was denied.
Guerrero granted Go’s plea for his release in 2014, based on the argument that he had already fully served his sentence based on an adjusted computation of his prison term.
But the DOJ, then under De Lima, contested this, saying Go has yet to complete his term, based on the computation of the Bureau of Corrections.
“I have directed the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) to promptly file a motion for reconsideration (MR), and in the meantime hindi pa dapat siya i-release,” De Lima said. (I have directed the OSG to promptly file a motion for reconsideration, and in the meantime he should not yet be released.)
The Supreme Court eventually ordered Go’s release in December 2016. – Rappler.com