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De Lima asks judge to inhibit herself from drug case due to ‘bias’

Sen. Leila de Lima - Senate - undated

Sen. Leila de Lima (Photo from her Facebook page)

Detained Sen. Leila De Lima has asked one of the three judges handling the drug case against her to inhibit herself because of “manifest partiality, bias and hostility.”

In a 13-page motion, De Lima asked acting Presiding Judge Lorna Navarro Domingo of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 to refrain from further hearing and conducting the trial on the case against her.

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The senator, through her counsel, said Navarro prematurely ruled against her motion to disqualify 13 previously-convicted witnesses despite her own order giving gave them five days to file a reply to the prosecution’s comment.

“This means that the Honorable Judge already had a pre-determined resolution of the Motion even before Accused filed her Reply. This clearly constitutes an act of prejudgment, reflecting the Honorable Judge’s manifest bias, partiality, and hostility against the Accused,” read the motion.

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De Lima sought the disqualification of the convicted witnesses insisting that the law, specifically Republic Act No. 6981 — or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act — states that the witness must not have been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.

The witnesses against the senator are mostly convicted drug traffickers, robbers, and carnappers.

The prosecution filed an opposition to her motion to disqualify the witnesses.

The senator was given up to Sept. 24 to submit a reply.

However, that same day, the court issued a ruling denying the motion. The court also scheduled that one of the witnesses, a convicted criminal, Engelberto Durano, to take the witness stand.

The court on Tuesday rescheduled the trial. Lawyer Filibon Tacardon said the court opted not to conduct a hearing until the motion to inhibit is resolved.

“Tinanggap naman ni Judge na hindi na muna siya magbibista o hind muna niya didinggin yung kaso hanggang hindi nare-resolve itong motion for inhibition,” Tacardo told reporters.

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De Lima was originally charged with “illegal drug trading,” but the charge was amended to “conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.”

This is not the first time De Lima sought the inhibition of a judge handling her case.

In November 2017, she also asked Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 to inhibit herself from the case.

She accused the judge of partiality in issuing her warrant of arrest, not immediately acting on her motion to quash, and in scheduling her arraignment despite the pending motion to quash before the RTC and a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court.

Early this year, Guerrero recused herself from the case. /atm

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