By Benjamin Pulta

MANILA – The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 206 has ordered three witnesses in the remaining drug case against former senator Leila de Lima to testify in court when hearings resume in September and October.

The court issued the order after the prosecutors requested for the issuance of a subpoena to former policemen Froilan Trestiza and Rodolfo Magleo, and gang leader Jaime Patcho, who were recently transferred from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) to the Sablayan Penal Colony.

Presiding Judge Gener Gito scheduled the three to testify on Sept. 11, 18, 25 and Oct. 16.

In a notice, all parties were advised to attend the hearing online through videoconference.

The case involves allegations that De Lima tolerated widespread illegal drug trade in the Bilibid while she was the Department of Justice secretary.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the court also advised the parties that the motion for reconsideration on the denial of temporary liberty for De Lima remained pending but did not mention when a resolution would be issued.

Magleo, a former police chief inspector convicted in 2004 for kidnapping, and Trestiza, a former police officer 1 also convicted for kidnapping for ransom in 2007, earlier told investigators how the late prison leader Jaybee Sebastian regularly enjoyed privileges and had direct contact with De Lima. Sebastian died in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Patcho, a prison gang leader, also told investigators that Sebastian advised them to assist him in coming up with funds to bankroll De Lima’s senatorial campaign.

The Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 earlier denied a motion for reconsideration filed by government prosecutors requesting the lower court to take a second look at its decision to acquit the former senator in one of her three drug charges.

Judge Abraham Alcantara denied for lack of merit the government’s motion to reconsider the decision dated May 12 acquitting De Lima and co-accused Ronnie Dayan.

The prosecutors had earlier asked Alcantara to recuse himself from handling the last remaining case against De Lima after it was re-raffled to his court following the inhibition of the previous judge, Branch 256 Judge Romeo Buenaventura.

They cast doubts on Alcantara’s impartiality after acquitting De Lima in a separate drug case.

Buenaventura, who turned down De Lima’s bail plea, voluntary inhibited himself upon the motion of the former lawmaker’s camp. (PNA)