Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today welcomed the inhibition of Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 204 from hearing the illegal drug trading charge the government has filed against her.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said she considers Guerrero's decision as "a step in the right direction" to get hopefully an unbiased view of her case.
"We do not rejoice that it became necessary to ask for the inhibition of a member of the judiciary, but circumstances, and especially the way she has thus far handled the case, have shown that it had to happen if justice has any chance of being truly and faithfully served," she said in a Dispatch from Crame No. 222.
"We count this as a step in the right direction, but we have to remain vigilant in ensuring that constitutional and human rights are not again trampled upon. Judges, after all, are among those who ought to be at the forefront of our fight for justice," she added.
In a four-page order dated Jan. 4, Guerrero has inhibited herself from further hearing the case against De Lima.
"In order not to cast doubt on the integrity and impartiality of the Presiding Judge and to disabuse the mind of the accused and her counsels who have expressed serious doubts on her objectivity in resolving this case due to the adverse orders issued against her, the court, acting on its sound discretion, voluntarily inhibits herself from further hearing the case," Guerrero wrote.
It was last November 2017 when De Lima sought for Guerrero's inhibition due to obvious partiality and questionable independence to hear the illegal drug trading charge filed against her.
In her 23-page Motion for Inhibition, De Lima pointed out that Guerrero has "displayed an unseemly and undue haste" in ensuring her detention and has violated the Senator's constitutional rights repeatedly.
Noting the events that transpired in the past year, De Lima then cited Guerrero's illegal issuance of a warrant of arrest against her and the judge's inaction of her Motion to Quash (MTQ), among others
In her recent dispatch, De Lima also noted her fight is not hers alone as it is a fight to ensure that justice, freedom and the rule of law prevail.
"This is not just my own personal fight, but a fight to make sure that the justice system is not being exploited by the rich and powerful as a tool to oppress their enemies. If it can be done to a sitting senator to silence and destroy her, it can be done to anyone, especially the most vulnerable," she said.
Last Feb. 23, Guerrero ordered De Lima's arrest even without resolving her Motion to Quash (MTQ) - which questions the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court on handling her case - that was expected to be heard the next day, Feb. 24.
Source: Senate of the Philippines