Manila: A Philippine senator and leading critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly crackdown on illegal drugs petitioned the Supreme Court on Monday to nullify an arrest warrant for her on drug charges and release her from jail.
Sen. Leila de Lima's petition said the court had no jurisdiction over the case. She said Judge Juanita Guerrero committed grave abuse by issuing the arrest warrant without first resolving de Lima's motion to quash the charges, where she questioned the jurisdiction of the lower court.
"The issuance of a warrant of arrest by a court that has no jurisdiction over the case makes such a warrant obviously and patently null and without basis, thus making Senator de Lima's detention on the basis thereof illegal," said her lawyer, Alex Padilla.
De Lima said she was innocent of the charges of receiving bribes from detained drug lords while she headed the Department of Justice, adding that the accusations were part of an attempt by Duterte to muzzle critics of his anti-drug clampdown, which has left more than 7,000 suspected dealers and small-time users dead.
Her lawyers said the charges should have been brought before the ombudsman who investigates cases against public officials, not the Department of Justice, which has an "institutional bias" against her.
The case also should have been filed before a special court called Sandiganbayan which has jurisdiction over cases committed by public officers and employees, and not Guerrero's court, her lawyers said.
They said the charge of illegal drug trading was used because it is nonbailable, although the offense cited was different because she was accused of demanding, soliciting and extorting money from detained drug lords. No proof was presented, they added.
Duterte refused to comment on de Lima's petition because the case is now in court, saying, "we leave it to the judgment of the nation to see who is lying and who is not."
Solicitor General Jose Calida said the court followed the rules in issuing the warrant and did not abuse its discretion as de Lima contended.
Calida argued that the regional trial court has jurisdiction over drug offenses under a special law.