MANILA -- Detained Senator Leila De Lima on Thursday filed a motion before the Supreme Court (SC) to order the inhibition of Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco from the deliberation of her petition seeking release from detention and stop her indictment for drug trading charges.
In a 10-page motion filed by her lawyer, Alexander Padilla, De Lima said Velasco is “unfit to decide the case at bar due to conflict of interest” as she cited his prior actuations in connection with the case of German Agojo in 2009.
She said that Velasco, who was a member of the division that handles the said case, initially disagreed with the decision of the rest of the division composed of then Associate Justices Dante Tinga (the ponente of the decision), Leonardo Quisumbing, Conchita Carpio-Morales and Arturo Brion and pushed for Agojo’s acquittal.
Agojo was convicted by the Tanauan Regional Trial Court (RTC) in 1999 for selling methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu and in 2007, the lower court’s ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeals and subsequently, the SC.
He was allegedly the mastermind behind the 2004 killing of Judge Voltaire Rosales who convicted him on the drug charges.
“The inordinate link and actuations of Justice Velasco with regard to German Agojo will significantly taint the credibility of the impending decision of the Honorable Supreme Court if he is to participate in the deliberations of the instant case and permitted to signify his position accordingly,” read the motion.
“It is settled in our jurisprudence that the cold neutrality of an impartial judge is an essential part of due process. Thus, it is necessary for the judge to reassure litigants of his being fair and being just,” De Lima said in his motion.
De Lima said Velasco eventually joined the majority decision but said that the deliberation by the high court on the said case was revealed to Agojo and that “there were intimations that the leak was made by no less than Justice Velasco” since he was the only one who voted in favor of Agojo.
Agojo, who is serving his sentence at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, is one of the witnesses tapped by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against de Lima in the drug trafficking case filed against her.
De Lima filed her petition last February and asked the high court to stop her indictment before the Muntinlupa City regional trial court by the DOJ for allegedly benefitting from illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison.
She sought issuance of a temporary restraining order to stop the proceedings in the drug cases against her and status quo ante order on the arrest warrant issued last week by Muntinlupa City regional trial court branch 204 that would allow her release from detention.
Her petition, which was heard by the SC in oral arguments last March, raised the issue on whether the cases against her fall under the jurisdiction of the RTC or the Sandiganbayan.
The DOJ indicted the senator before the Muntinlupa RTC, saying drug cases fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the trial courts.
But De Lima argued that not the DOJ but the Office of the Ombudsman has jurisdiction on her case because she was Secretary of Justice at that time, who has a salary grade higher than 27.
The senator, who is currently detained at the PNP Custodial Center, also argued that the allegations against her do not actually constitute sale and trading of illegal drugs and liability of government officials under Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act), but rather only direct bribery. (PNA)