Chief Justice Sereno urges fellow magistrates to clear De Lima of all charges in exchange of favors

Sources from the Supreme Court says Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has been urging fellow magistrates to clear the Senator Leila de Lima of all drug-related charges in exchange for favors - like an impeachment complaint agaisnt the chief justice is taken to the Senate.

The Supreme Court's decisions is divided - is there a probable cause to charge the senator for drug-related cases and if the Muntinlupa regional trial court (RTC) has the jurisdiction over her cases instead of the Sandiganbayan.

A 40-page ruling of Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. recommending to dismiss De Lima's petition to junk her cases for the reason of lack of merit, where the Department of Justice endoresed the cases on the Muntilupa RTC.

Separate draft opinions have also been circulated among the Supreme Court justices, written by Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Marvic Leonen, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Francis Jardeleza and Diosdado Peralta.

So far, De Lima has a positive votes of six, whereas the number could increase to eight if Sereno's 'bribing' on other magistrate ssucceeds.

There are two pending impeachment complaints against Sereno that are waiting for endorsement from at least one member of the House of Representatives. Complaints are betrayal of public trust for various offenses, such as misdeclaration in her statement of assets and liabilities and her purchase of an expensive, bulletproof sport utility vehicle using taxpayers’ money.

For what it seems like, the voting is being held back until Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza retires on August 13, his 70th birthday. His last en banc session was on August 8.

If the full court session was dismissed on August 8, it only means that 14 justices can participate unless President Rodrigo Duterte immediately names Mendoza's replacement.

"It will be definitely a close voting. It depends on Sereno’s maneuver. She doesn’t want Justice Bambit (Mendoza) to vote, to make the voting tight," a court source told the media.

However, Mendoza is willing to participate in the voting before he retires.

The detained lady senator De Lima has filed a petition that seeks to nullify her February 23 arrest warrant on charges of drug trading and also questioning the jurisdiction of Judge Guerrero and the Muntinlupa RTC.

She accused RTC of gravely abusing of discreton for proceeding in issuing the arrest order despite her pending motion to nullify and question the court's authority on her case.

Moreover, she complained that the Office of the Ombudsman is the body that has jurisdiction over her case since the charges were based on her used of her position as the Justice Secretary during the Aquino administration, whereas, "specifically that she demanded, solicited and extorted money from the [New Bilibid Prison] inmates through her alleged intermediaries/bagmen," namely Rafael Ragos and Ronnie Dayan.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales was a appointee of the former President Noynoy Aquino - an ally of detained Senator De Lima.

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Source: Manila Times