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De Lima asks SC for new judge to handle drug case

Detained Senator Leila de Lima has asked Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez to appoint a new judge to hear one of three of the government's illegal drug cases against her.

In a letter to Marquez on Monday, De Lima said her lawyers have learned that Muntinlupa Judge Antonietta Medina will not be hearing Criminal Case No. 17-167 as she had already inhibited twice from another case.

Medina was a temporary replacement for Judge Gener Gito, whom De Lima said was relieved as acting presiding judge of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court's Branch 256 under a circular from the Office of the Court Administrator last November 11.

"As Judge Medina has already inhibited twice from one of my other pending RTC cases, my counsels and I have recently been informed that she will not be conducting any hearings for Criminal Case No. 17-167," the senator wrote.

In asking for the appointment of another judge, she said only five out of 54 witnesses against her have taken the stand since she was arraigned for the case in July 2018. She has been detained since February 2017.

As of late 2018, at least four judges have inhibited from handling the drug cases against the opposition senator.

Apart from Medina, Judge Lorna Navarro-Domingo, Judge Myra Bayot-Quimbao, and Judge Juanita Guerrero recused themselves from the high-profile cases. Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon, retired early.

Two of the three drug cases are currently being handled by Judge Liezel Aquiatan.

Prosecutors have accused De Lima of involvement in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison while she was secretary of the Department of Justice. Some witnesses claimed they delivered illegally sourced money to De Lima's house in 2012.

De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, denies the allegations. —LDF, GMA News