Jun 272013
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday said she is already awaiting the results of an internal investigation into the five-year illegal detention of a drug suspect.

De Lima said she ordered the investigation after a Court of Appeals ruling that branded as illegal the detention of suspect Joan Urbina in the absence of any formal charges in court.

Urbina and her boyfriend Ben Bryan Chua were arrested in December 2007 for alleged use of illegal drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia, in violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

In January 2008, the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the drug complaints against Chua for lack of evidence, while those against Urbina remained. She was locked up at the Philippine Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

“I’m waiting for the result of the [DOJ] Internal Affairs Unit investigation. Titignan ko kung ano ire-recommend na sanction,” De Lima told reporters in Manila.

“Titingnnan ko rin kung ang handling prosecution lamang ba ang dapat parusahan. [Kasi] baka may iba pa diyan,” she added.

Assistant State Prosecutor Gerard Gaerlan had already owned up to the delay in the resolution of Urbina’s case.

But De Lima stressed despite the prosecutor’s apology, she also wanted to take full responsibility for the illegal detention.

“Inaako ko iyang kasalanan ng mga nasa baba sa akin. Kasalanan ko rin iyan but of course it’s humanly impossible to monitor   all case here,” De Lima said.

“But as head of the institution ako ang mananagot sa lahat, good or bad, including iyang kapabayaan,” she added.

De Lima said when the drug complaint against Urbina was submitted to the DOJ for automatic review, the case got buried.

“Iyong draft [complaint] na iyon ay ibinalik sa kaniya to make revisions, pero hindi na binalikan. Natabunan na raw ng mga folders,” De Lima said.

While Urbina’s case was originally handled by the DOJ under former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, it was only two weeks ago that formal cases were filed against her with the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, which raffled it off to Branch 227 Judge Elvira de Castro-Panganiban.

Before the cases were filed against her, Urbina filed in January a petition for certiorari and habeas corpus, contesting her five-year detention.

In its ruling, the CA struck down the cases filed against Urbina for being lodged way too late.

“The Information filed before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 227 is hereby declared null and void for having been filed way beyond the period prescribed under pertinent rules of the Department of Justice,” the CA said in its 18-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam.

The appellate court also said that the National Prosecution Service and De Lima, who inherited Urbina’s case from three Justice secretaries who came before her, “were not able to explain the delay in filing the Information in court, there was neither sufficient justification for the unceremonious filing… at a time when petitioner has already sought recourse to question her prolonged illegal detention.” — LBG, GMA News

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