Admin complaint filed vs. judge who handled De Lima’s drug case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — The judge who handled one of the three drug charges of former Senator Leila de Lima is now facing an administrative complaint before the Supreme Court (SC) for belatedly inhibiting from her case.

De Lima’s lawyers filed the complaint against Muntinlupa court Judge Romeo Buenaventura with SC’s Judicial Integrity Board.

The complainants were represented by counsels from the Movement Against Disinformation, led by Dean Tony La Viña, who said Buenaventura did not “[inhibit] himself early in the case when he had conflict of interest already.”

De Lima’s co-accused -- Ronnie Dayan, Joenel Sanchez and Franklin Bucayu -- moved for Buenaventura’s recusal, saying he failed to disclose that he is the brother of Emmanuel Buenaventura.

They noted that Emmanuel Buenaventura represented Dayan and served as legal adviser of Congressman Rey Umali during House hearings in the illegal drug trade in Bilibid.

Lawyer Maria Christina Yambot explained that under the canons of ethics, judges should either inhibit at the outset or at least disclose such a relationship for possible conflict of interest.

In his order, Judge Buenaventura insisted he does not see any compulsion for him to disqualify himself or disclose the fact that Atty. Buenaventura is his brother.

He said this includes his brother’s supposed professional engagements with Dayan or Umali.

However, Yambot said it’s their job to bring Buenaventura’s case to the attention of the judiciary “for the overall welfare of the public in the administration of justice.”

“[A]ng belated inhibition ay nag-resulta sa pagka-delay ng kaso," Yambot pointed out. "At sa pagkakaalam naman natin ilang taon na si (former) Sen. Leila de Lima sa kulungan at ‘di pa rin sya pinagbibigyan na makapag-bail man lamang. At dahil dito sinasabi natin na may role, malaking role si Judge Buenaventura sa pag-continue detention ni (former) Sen. Leila de Lima.”

[Translation: The belated inhibition resulted in the delay of the case. And as we know, Sen. Leila de Lima has been detained for years, and she hasn’t even been granted bail. Because of this, we’re saying Judge Buenaventura has a big role in the continued detention of former Sen. Leila de Lima.]

Buenaventura earlier denied De Lima’s bail plea.