Panelo: Palace has nothing to do with de Lima’s arrest

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 February) – Malacanang did not pressure the court into issuing an arrest warrant against Senator Leila de Lima, presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said Friday.

De Lima, who is accused of protecting illegal drug trade at the National Bilibid Prisons, was arrested Friday on the basis of a warrant issued by Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court-Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero.

Panelo, speaking at the ASEAN RORO Shipping Business Forum on Friday at the SMX Convention Center here, brushed aside speculations that President Rodrigo R. Duterte was behind the arrest because the senator is critical toward his administration.

He said Duterte acknowledged the judiciary as a co-equal branch of the executive.

“The president, he was telling me about it yesterday, said ‘we have nothing to do with that’. There is a claim there is pressure from the government. There can never be pressure. Executive is a different branch of government,” he said.

He said De lima failed to file a counter affidavit to one of the three cases filed against her.

He said the rule of law must prevail regardless of one’s stature in life.

“If politically motivated, there should have been no charges filed against her. The problem, she opted not to file an counteraffidavit,” he said.

Panelo said de Lima’s failure to file a counter affidavit made it easier for the judge to determine a probable cause and issue an arrest warrant.

He also criticized the Aquino administration, where de Lima served as Justice secretary, for the “questionable” graft charges against former president and now House deputy speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The court dismissed the charges against Arroyo shortly after Duterte became president.

“I said the law of karma has finally caught up with the senator. That fits the principle of ‘what you sow is what you reap.’ She is now reaping what she has sown. She used her office in effecting the arrest and detention of the critics of the previous admin,” Panelo said.

He alleged that the ouster of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona served as a warning to judges that they would suffer the same fate if they went against the Aquino.

“The president is the one outraged by violations of the law, by any irregularity. He is one outraged by any abuse of human rights. He is known to be incorruptible. He has the political will. That’s why, he focuses on one thing. Everything he is asked, he said ‘there is only one platform of government I have. What the law is, you obey’,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)