THE Supreme Court (SC) began Tuesday, March 14, the oral arguments on detained Senator Leila de Lima's petition challenging the legality of the arrest order issued by a Muntinlupa trial court judge over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trading in the state penitentiary.

The senator's legal counsels present during the oral arguments are former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, De La Salle College of Law Dean Jose Manuel Diokno, Flag lawyer Alex Padilla, former senators Bobby Tañada and Rene Saguisag, and lawyers Teddy Rigoroso and Philip Sawali.

Hilbay was tasked to argue before the magistrates on behalf of De Lima.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, meanwhile, will be the one to represent the respondents, mainly Judge Juanita Guerrero of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 and Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, among others.

De Lima's petition seeks to nullify the arrest order issued by Guerrero on February 23.

In her petition, De Lima asked the high court to issue a stay order and grant her plea to stop the the Muntinlupa RTC from trying her drug trafficking cases for lack of jurisdiction.

The SC, however, refused to grant the senator's request to leave detention but instead set the case for oral arguments.

Among the topics to be tackled during the oral arguments are the following:

– Whether De Lima is excused from compliance with hierarchy of courts considering that her petition should have been first filed with the Court of Appeals

– Whether the judge committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the arrest warrant

– Whether the regional trial court has jurisdiction over her case

– Whether she should get a TRO or status quo ante order.

In a comment filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) with the SC, it said that Section 90 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act provides that RTCs have exclusive jurisdiction to try and hear cases involving illegal drugs.

According to the OSG, Guerrero's orders were proper and that she did not act with grave abuse of discretion upon issuing the assailed arrest warrants.

Groups seek Jardeleza's inhibition

Ahead of the oral arguments, groups led by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) has called on Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza to inhibit in deciding the senator's case.

The VACC said Jardeleza should inhibit as he and the senator worked together at the Jardeleza Sobreviñas Hayudini and Bodegon Law Office in 1987 and in Jardeleza Law Firm from 1991 to 1993.

The critics of the senator further pointed out that Jardeleza was also the solicitor general when De Lima was justice secretary under former President Benigno Aquino III's tenure.

The groups, through lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, however said they would not file a formal motion with the SC to seek for Jardeleza's inhibition since the VACC is not a party to the case filed by the senator. (SunStar Philippines)