DOJ asks court to cite De Lima, lawyer for indirect contempt

Published December 4, 2020, 4:59 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors on Friday, Dec. 4, asked the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to cite for indirect contempt and slap penalties against detained Sen. Leila De Lima and her lawyer for allegedly defying the gag order imposed on her drug cases.

In a 39-page petition, DOJ prosecutors led by Provincial Prosecutor Ramoncito Bienvenido Ocampo Jr. asked the Muntinlupa RTC to have “Atty. Filbon Fabela Tacardon and Leila M. De Lima guilty of indirect contempt and imposing upon them the maximum penalty under the law.”

DOJ prosecutors explained that the numerous public statements made by De Lima and her legal counsel to the media show that they “committed a violation of the sub judice rule.”

“The sub judice rule restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court, or obstructing the administration of justice,” the government lawyers said.

“It signifies that the same case, legal matter or controversy has come under the jurisdiction of a court (sub judice), and nobody, including the press and other media should interfere by publication or public clamor with the court’s proper handling of the proceeding,” they added.

The DOJ prosecutors cited that under the Code of Professional Responsibility: “A lawyer shall not make public statements in the media regarding a pending case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party.”

“The fact that respondent Atty. Tacardon engages with his revelations or disclosure to media, with obvious imprimatur of respondent Senator M. De Lima, of any facts (or lack thereof) relating to the case is considered sub judice,” government lawyers said.

De Lima, who is currently detained at the at the custodial center of Camp Crame, is facing three drug charges before the Muntinlupa RTC over her alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“Their press statements and pronouncements in different media platforms have the power to persuade, influence, intimidate, incite the perception and sentiments of their colleagues and other government officials, including the trial court judges,” prosecutors lamented.

“This is an obvious attempt of respondents to condition the minds of the public and affect the Court in finally deciding on the criminal liability of the accused in its decision to these cases,” they added.

Because of this, government lawyers stressed that “the Court must be protected from any attempt to pressure it into acting one way or the other in any case pending before it and to proceed to the disposition of its business in an orderly manner, free from outside interference obstructive of its functions and tending to embarrass the administration of justice.”

Prosecutors reported that last October 23 Tacardon stated that Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) financial investigator Artemio Baculi and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) digital forensic examiner Krystal Casenas have exonerated De Lima during their respective testimonies in court.

“As improperly insinuated by Atty. Tacardon, it is not true that prosecution witnesses ‘reaffirmed’ that the accused was not involved in any suspicious  transaction that would link accused De Lima to the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison. It is also not true that the said witnesses found no suspicious transactions between the senator and drug convicts,” prosecutors said.

“In fact, the prosecution presented to the Court evidence to the contrary as clearly pointed out in the judicial affidavit of Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Darwin Canete,” they stressed.