OPPOSITION Sen. Leila de Lima yesterday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to assign a new judge to take over one of her drug cases pending before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court after the presiding judge announced that no hearings will be held for the said case.
De Lima said she and her counsel were informed that RTC Branch 276 Judge Antonietta Medina will not be holding hearings on Criminal Case No.17-167 where the detained senator is facing charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.
This specific case is pending before RTC Branch 256. But following the relief of acting presiding Judge Gener Gito of his designation, Medina was tasked to take over the case.
“I write in relation to my pending case before the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa, specifically Criminal Case No.17-167 that is currently being heard before RTC Muntinlupa Branch 256. Pursuant to OCA Circular No-213-2019 dated November 11, 2019, Judge Gener Gito, the acting presiding judge for RTC Muntinlupa Branch 256, was relieved of his designation and has been temporarily replaced by Judge Antonietta Medina of RTC Muntinlupa Branch 276 who will be acting as pairing judge,” De Lima said in a two-page letter addressed to Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez.
The senator did not give additional details on why no hearings will be held, but pointed out that Medina has already twice inhibited from her other pending cases at the Muntinlupa trial court.
Likewise, she noted that since she was incarcerated last February 2017 and since her arraignment on the drug-related cases filed by the Department of Justice, only five out of the 54 prosecution witnesses have been called to testify against her.
“In view if the foregoing developments, we fervently hope that your good office would act earnestly and immediately in the matter of appointing a presiding judge to hear Criminal Case No. 17-167 pending before the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256,” De Lima said.
Aside from De Lima, other accused in Criminal Case No. 17-167 includes former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, alleged bagmen Wilfredo Eli and Jose Adrian Dera, De Lima’s former bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, security aide Joenel Sanchez and convicted kidnapper Jaybee Sebastian.
Six judges have so far withdrawn, either by inhibiting or by opting for early retirement, from handling the controversial cases filed against the senator.
They are Judges Amelia Fabros-Corpus, Lorna Domingo, Juanita Guererro, Myra Quiambao, Patricia Manalastas de Leon and Medina.