Court orders law enforcement agencies to arrest De Lima, et al

 

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Senator Leila De Lima was ordered arrested on Thursday on drug-related charges filed against her by the Department of Justice.

De Lima is alleged to have abetted the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison when she was Justice Secretary from 2010 to 2015.

Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa RTC 204 ordered law enforcement agencies to arrest De Lima, days after the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) raffled off her case.

Together with De Lima, the court also ordered the arrest of Rafael Marcos Ragos, and Ronnie Palisoc Dayan.

De Lima arrest warrant.jpg  

The Justice Department filed on February 17 three criminal cases against De Lima for allegedly violating the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002 — a non-bailable offense.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said the cases against De Lima are non-bailable and are punishable with reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

Related: DOJ files 3 drug cases vs. De Lima

In an interview with CNN Philippines, De Lima's colleague and ally Sen. Franklin Drilon said he hopes the court would consider house arrest for De Lima. 

Aguirre, however, said allowing house arrest for De Lima would be tantamount to "special treatment." He added, the court will determine the detention facility of De Lima and the other accused.

De Lima: 'Tuloy ang laban ni Leila'

A few hours after the warrant of arrest was issued against De Lima, the senator told reporters in a press conference, she would never run away from the cases filed against her.

"Wala po akong balak magtago, haharapin ko po ang mga kaso na 'yan," De Lima said. [I have no plans of hiding, I will face the cases filed against me.]

De Lima turned emotional as she said she would want to go home first, and spend time with her family.

"Gusto ko muna po makapiling ang aking pamilya," De Lima said, trying to hold back her tears. "Uuwi po ako ngayon gabi, at babalik po ako bukas ng umaga." [I would like to be with my family. I will go home tonight, and I will go back tomorrow morning.]

Last week, Senator De Lima said she was ready for the "worst-case scenario" of her impending arrest.

"I've been preparing for a worst case scenario kasi katuparan lang po 'yan ng matagal nang inuutos ng Pangulo. Di ba matagal na niyang sinasabi that he wants me locked up in jail," she said last Monday, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Related: De Lima 'prepares for worst-case scenario' in possible arrest today

Last week, Duterte said he was confident the Justice Department's case against Senator De Lima's is airtight. He said De Lima "will have to face the music" and the charges filed against her.

Related: Duterte on De Lima's drug cases: 'She will have to face the music'

De Lima has consistently insisted she is not involved in the illegal drug trade.

In a text message to CNN Philippines on Friday, De Lima, who is one of Duterte's most prominent critics, said the DOJ's move was "plain and simple political persecution."

However, in an interview with CNN Philippines on Monday, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said De Lima could not claim "political persecution" since she was given ample opportunities to defend herself against the charges.

"How can it be political persecution when lahat naman ay binigyan ng pagkakataon to answer the charges," said Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, one of the groups that filed the case against De Lima.

Jimenez maintains that De Lima had a chance to air her side if she had only responded to summons by the Department of Justice and House of Representatives during the Congress probe on the drug trade.

LP Senators back De Lima

Senators of the Liberal Party are backing their party mate.

In a joint statement issued Sunday, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon and Bam Aquino said arresting De Lima based on the DOJ's "trumped-up" charges would be illegal and deprive De Lima of her right to due process.

The Senators said the move was meant to punish De Lima for going against Duterte.

"It is an underhanded maneuver meant to go after critics, regardless of legal bases or processes," they said.

In a statement replying to the LP Senators, Justice Secretary Aguirre denied such allegations, saying he has inhibited from all cases concerning De Lima from the start.

He said the cases against De Lima were not politically driven but based on evidence of her connections to illegal drugs.

"Drug cases do not involve one's political beliefs. It involves one's choice to be involved in illegal drugs," he said.

Related: LP Senators: Cases against De Lima 'illegal'

PNP Chief offers De Lima Camp Crame's Custodial Center

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald Dela Rosa, meanwhile, has offered to house De Lima at the Camp Crame Custodial Center.

Dela Rosa said Saturday De Lima would be safe at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

"For me, it's one of the most secure detention centers sa buong Pilipinas dahil nasa loob ng Camp Crame. So I am offering that facility para naman na mabigyan siya ng complete protection dahil Senador siya," he said.

[Translation: I'm just waiting for instructions from a competent court in case our Crame detention center is needed. For me, it's one of the most secure detention centers in the whole Philippines because it's inside Camp Crame. So I am offering that facility so that she would be given complete protection because she's a senator.]

De Lima will be joining two former Senators, should she choose to stay in the custodial center.

Former Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla are currently detained at the PNP Custodial Center for plunder charges in relation to the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF scam.

Related: PNP Chief offers De Lima Camp Crame's Custodial Center