Judges handling De Lima cases deny getting a call from Sereno

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) judges denied receiving a call from Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to defer issuing a warrant of arrest against Senator Leila de Lima.

Judge Patria Manalastas de Leon of Branch 206 and Judge Amelia Fabros Corpuz of Branch 205 attended the House committee on justice impeachment hearing on Monday, February 19.

Complainant Larry Gadon, in his impeachment complaint, accused Sereno of obstruction of justice for supposedly calling Muntinlupa judges to ask them not to order De Lima’s arrest in February.

“I have not received any instruction to that effect whether directly or indirectly,” De Leon said.

“That is not true, your honor,” Corpuz said.

The first judge to issue a warrant of arrest which sent De Lima to jail was Branch 204's Juanita Guerrero but she did not attend Monday’s hearing, saying she was on leave.

Jenny Lind Aldecoa-Delorino, Deputy Court Administrator of the SC and the one who is in charge of trial court judges, said she also did not call the judges to defer issue warrants of arrest.

Delorino said she talked to Guerrero who told her that she also did not get a call from Sereno.

“She told me categorically that she did not receive any phone call from any official from the SC, neither did she receive any directive from the Chief Justice not to issue a warrant of arrest against De Lima,” Delorino said. 

Delorino said she called the trial court judges as a matter of practice. She said in high-profile cases, the SC gets in touch with trial courts to ask if they need additional manpower or other resources.

Court Administrator Midas Marquezz said he personally will not call trial court judges, but said Delorino can exercise her own discretions.

Other lawmakers deferred their interpellations given the blanket denials. Gadon could also not add to the discussion, saying he didn’t bring his records with him.

But Leyte 3rd District Representative Vicente Veloso went on to grill Corpuz, scrutinizing the long time it took her to issue a warrant of arrest. Corpuz issued the warrant of arrest on June 21, four months after Guerrero issued hers.

Corpuz said it was because she had to resolve the numerous motions De Lima filed before her court.

“It was only resolved on June 19, 2017,” Corpuz said.

Veloso said Corpuz’s reasons “do not correct the impression that nobody told you not to issue the warrant of arrest.”

“That is a brazen lie!” Corpuz said.

“I did not say it is correct, I am talking about impression,” Veloso said.

All 3 courts have issued warrants of arrest, but De Lima has not been arraigned in any because the Department of Justice (DOJ) is still amending its information.

Of the 3 judges, only Corpuz remains on the De Lima case. She is in fact now handling two of the 3 charges, after various inhibitions and re-raffles left her with no choice but to handle two.

Guerrero has already inhibited. De Leon had retired early. De Leon’s Branch 206 still handles a 3rd charge, pending a new assignment of a judge. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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