CNN and multiple broadsheets report this morning that Senator Leila Delima had been arrested in connection with drug charges. The burning question among pro and anti administration friends is this: is the arrest legal. Can a sitting Senator be issued a warrant of arrest by an RTC judge.

It is my opinion that the arrest is illegal on two grounds.

The Issue of Jurisdiction: RTC Is Bereft of Authority

The court issuing the warrant of arrest had no authority to do so. As stated by the Revised Rules of Court, the powers of the RTC is confined to the following:

1. Exclusive original jurisdiction in criminal cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal or body, except those falling under the exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan

All criminal cases where the penalty is higher than 6 years, including government-related cases wherein the accused in not one of those falling under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan is within the jurisdiction of the RTC.

On the other hand the Sandiganbayan exercises jurisdiction over officials of Sen. De Lima’s rank.

Sec.4 of RA 8249 provides that the Sandiganbayan shall have original exclusive jurisdiction over:

I.) Violations of RA 3019 (Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Law);

II.) RA 1379 (Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Wealth);

III.) Crimes by public officers or employees embraced in Ch. II, Sec.2 Title VII, Bk. II of the RPC (Crimes committed by Public Officers) namely:

a) Direct Bribery under Art. 210 as amended by BP 871, May 29, 1985;

b) Indirect Bribery under Art. 211 as amended by BP 871, May 29, 1985;

c) Qualified Bribery under Art. 211-A as amended by RA 7659, Dec. 13, 1993;

d) Corruption of public officials under Art. 212

where one or more of the accused are officials occupying the following positions in the government whether in a permanent, acting or interim capacity, at the time of the commission of the offense:

1) Officials of the executive branch occupying the positions of regional director and higher, otherwise classified as Grade 27 and higher, of the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989 Republic Act No. 6758) specifically including:

a) Provincial governors, vice-governors, members of the sangguniang panlalawigan, provincial treasurers, assessors, engineers and other provincial department heads;

b) City mayors, vice-mayors, members of the sangguniang panglungsod, city treasurers, assessors, engineers and other department heads;

c) Officials of the diplomatic service occupying the position of consul and higher;

d) Philippine Army and Air force colonels, naval captains and all officers of higher rank;

e) Officers of the PNP while occupying the position of Provincial Director and those holding the rank of Senior Superintendent or higher;

f) City and provincial prosecutors and their assistants; officials and the prosecutors in the Office of the Ombudsman and special prosecutor ;

g) President, directors or trustees or managers of government owned or controlled corporations, state universities or educational institutions or foundations;

2) Members of Congress and Officials thereof classified as Grade 27 and up under the Compensation and Classification Act of 1989;

3) Members of the Judiciary without prejudice to the provision of the Constitution;

4) Chairmen and members of Constitutional Commissions, without prejudice to the provision of the Constitution;

5) All other national and local officials classified as Grade 27 and higher under the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989.

IV.) Other offenses or felonies whether simple or complexed with other crimes committed in relation to their office by the public officials and employees mentioned above;

The Issue of Due Process: Non Corroboration of Testimony

The only legal ammunition used as basis for deLima’s arrest are the testimonies of convicted drug lords. None of the testimonies had been corroborated by independent evidence. Interestingly, those rendering unsupported testimonies enjoyed privileges forthwith.

Due process had been denied and this casts a shroud over the entire proceedings.

Will justice ultimately prevail? Let’s see what the courts have to say.