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Court orders reopening of De Lima trial for 1 day

A Muntinlupa court has ordered the one-day reopening of the trial of former Senator Leila de Lima in connection with her illegal drug case.

In a two-page order dated April 24, 2023, Presiding Judge Abraham Joseph Alcantara of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 granted the prosecution's motion to re-open the trial filed on April 17.

"WHEREFORE, in the interest of justice and to give the parties the fullest opportunity to present its evidence, the Urgent Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration and to Re-Open Trial (to set for the presentation of Prosecution's rebuttal evidence) is granted," the order read.

The prosecution sought to reopen the trial to allow it to present its rebuttal evidence as well as Atty. Demiteer Huerta of the Public Attorney's Office as witness.

In granting the prosecution's motion, the court set the following two conditions:

  • the prosecution shall strictly adhere to its undertaking that its rebuttal witness shall be fully presented in one (1) day. No motion for continuance shall be allowed; and
  • [the prosecution shall] orally offer its evidence in rebuttal after the presentation of its witness

In its opposition to the prosecution's motion, De Lima's camp countered that by submitting the case for decision, the prosecution has waived its opportunity to further present rebuttal evidence.

"The move to re-open the case fails to present any manifest injustice sought to be avoided," the defense said.

But according to the court, there is no "precise provision" in the Rules of Court governing a motion to reopen a case for the reception of rebuttal evidence after a case has been submitted for decision but before judgment.

"It is a judicial action which is controlled only by the utmost interest of justice and rests entirely on the sound discretion of Court," Judge Alcantara said in his order.

The court set the hearing on the presentation of the prosecution's rebuttal evidence on Friday morning.

De Lima is accused of benefiting financially from the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her stint as Justice Secretary. She has repeatedly denied the allegation.

In February 2021, the Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 205 junked one of the three drug cases against De Lima, who marked her sixth year in detention in February 2023. —KBK, GMA Integrated News