Supreme Court dismisses De Lima's petition to nullify arrest on drug charges

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 10) — Senator Leila De Lima will stay in jail as the Supreme Court (SC) en banc voted 9 to 6 to dismiss her bid to nullify her arrest on drug charges, the high court said on Tuesday.

The high court dismissed De Lima's petition for lack of merit, it announced on its official Twitter account.

SC spokesperson Theodore Te said in a news briefing that there were 12 separate opinions on the decision.

Earlier, a Supreme Court source said those who voted to dismiss the senator's petition are Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano Del Castillo, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes, and Alexander Gesmundo.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Alfred Benjamin Caguioa voted to grant De Lima's petition.

Three separate drug cases were filed against former De Lima and several co-assused for their alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison while she was Justice Secretary from 2010 to 2015.

Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero on February 24 ordered DeLima's arrest over the drug charges filed against her.

The senator has been detained without bail at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since then.

Senators, gov't officials weigh in

Senate President Koko Pimentel III said he respects the ruling.

"They've studied the case thoroughly than us here. Anyway, may second review pa (si De Lima), the court itself hearing her case," Pimentel said Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he disagrees with the court's decision, although he respects it.

"De Lima can still file for a motion for reconsideration," Drilon said.

The Office of the Solicitor General also issued a statement, saying the court ruling upholds the "majesty of the law".

"This Decision further negates the erroneous perception that the government's war against drugs is waged only against the unlettered and the underprivileged," the solicitor-general said in a statement.

Solicitor General Jose Calida represented the government in the March 2017 hearings of three separate drug cases filed against former senator De Lima.

Meanwhile, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who represented De Lima, said the decision was just two votes shy of vindication.

"The path to justice for Leila DeLima is a steep incline, but her strong heart & unconquerable spirit will persist till justice is done," Hilbay said.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.