Local court judges and a deputy court administrator on Monday disputed the allegation that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno ordered them not to issue an arrest warrant against Senator Leila de Lima.
Amelia Fabros-Corpuz and Patria Manalastas-De Leon, presiding judges of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court branches 205 and 206, denied the claim made by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon in his impeachment complaint against the top magistrate.
Jenny Lind Aldecoa-Delorina, deputy court administrator, quoted Presiding Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa RTC branch 204 in also denying the allegation.
Delorino denied receiving a call asking her to ask any of the judges to relay that kind of instruction.
Confronted with the denials, Gadon asked for time to consult his records.
Fabros-Corpuz said she issued a warrant after Guerrero issued a warrant. Fabros-Corpuz’s warrant was issued in June 2017, even if the information was filed February 2017. This was because de Lima filed several petitions assailing the case.
Vice Chair Vicente Veloso said the length of time created the impression of delay since they are supposed to issue warrants within 10 days of receipt of the information.
Manalastas-de Leon for her part said she issued her warrant after the SC resolved de Lima’s petitions before the High Court. Her warant was issued November 2017.
House Justice Committee Chair Reynaldo Umali said the panel invited Guerrero to the hearing, but she was on leave.
Delorino said that as a matter of policy, they may call judges of controversial cases to check if they needed help.
1SAGIP Rep. Rodante Marcoleta then asked if Delorino did the same in the case of the former President Gloria Arroyo’s case before the Pasay RTC. Arroyo was seated beside Marcoleta.
Later on Arroyo clarified that she was not arrested at the airport, but she was arrested at the hospital.
Delorino said she was not sure and said that she was not always in charge of Pasay. Marcoleta accused her of being selective.
Court Administrator Midas Marquez said he and his 3 deputies are appointed by the full Supreme Court and they report directly to the Chief Justice or any of the justices.
He said he refrains from calling judges especially those handling high-profile cases because he might be misunderstood, but he doesn’t prevent his deputies from doing what they believe is proper.
Umali admonished Gadon and hinted this ground maybe dropped from the article of impeahcment.
Gadon said it was “clear” that Delorino “influenced the two judges into not issuing warrant of arrest against De Lima because they deferred with so much delay of 4 months and 9 months.”
“No matter how DCA Delorino skirts the issue, her telephone call which at first she denied having done, it turned out that DCA Delorino did actually call after cross examination and admitted that she called to warn the judges not to inhibit,” he said in a statement.
Gadon said Delorino was “obviously lying” because she said she believes the judges “are competent and are truly independent,” yet she called to warn them not to inhibit from the cases.
“The call of Delorino, while she did not directly tell the judges not to issue warrant, the indirect instruction ‘to see to it that the rights of De Lima should be protected especially that she is a senator’ has resulted in the delay of the actions of the two judges in contrast to the other judge whom DCA Delorino was not able to talk to who immediately issued warrant in accordance with the law and the rules of court,” he said.