By Hannah Torregoza
Even though it was a small legal victory, Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday said she rejoiced at the inhibition of Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 54 Judge Juanita Guerrero from her illegal drug case.
“The news of the inhibition of Judge Guerrero is a welcome one,” said De Lima, in a statement.
“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,” added the detained senator.
De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center since February 2017 after she was arrested for allegedly being involved in the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Her camp has sought Guerrero’s inhibition saying she has “displayed unseemly and undue haste” in making sure she is detained and depriving her liberty despite her pending petitions before the Supreme Court (SC).
De Lima has since denied the allegations involving her in illegal drugs saying the charges being hurled against her were politically motivated for being a vocal critic of the Duterte administration.
“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,” she said.
“If it can be done to a sitting senator to silence and destroy her, it can be done to anyone, especially the most vulnerable,” added the senator.
De Lima said she would count Guerrero’s decision to recuse from her pending case “a step in the right direction.”
“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,” she said.
“Judges, after all, are among those who ought to be at the forefront of our fight for justice,” De Lima stressed.
The court issued the warrant of arrest against De Lima, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director Franklin Jesus Bucayu, and five others in connection with one of the three drug cases filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in February, 2017.