MANILA – A judge who presided over one of the three drug-related charges against former Senator Leila de Lima is currently under an administrative complaint before the Supreme Court (SC) for a delayed recusal from her case.

De Lima’s legal team submitted the complaint against Judge Romeo Buenaventura of the Muntinlupa court to the SC’s Judicial Integrity Board.

The complainants were represented by attorneys from the Movement Against Disinformation, led by Dean Tony La Viña, who argued that Buenaventura failed to remove himself from the case promptly when a conflict of interest became apparent.

De Lima’s co-defendants—Ronnie Dayan, Joenel Sanchez, and Franklin Bucayu—requested Buenaventura’s withdrawal, citing his failure to disclose his familial relationship with Emmanuel Buenaventura.

They pointed out that Emmanuel Buenaventura had represented Dayan and acted as a legal adviser to Congressman Rey Umali during House hearings on the illegal drug trade in Bilibid.

Lawyer Maria Christina Yambot explained that according to ethical guidelines for judges, they should either recuse themselves at the outset or, at the very least, disclose such relationships to address potential conflicts of interest.

In response, Judge Buenaventura asserted in his order that he saw no reason to disqualify himself or disclose his brother’s professional engagements with Dayan or Umali.

However, Yambot emphasized that it was their responsibility to bring Buenaventura’s case to the judiciary’s attention “for the greater good of public administration of justice.”

“The delayed recusal resulted in case delays,” Yambot noted. “We all know that (former) Sen. Leila de Lima has been in detention for years without even the opportunity for bail. Therefore, we argue that Judge Buenaventura played a significant role in the continued detention of (former) Sen. Leila de Lima.”

Buenaventura had previously denied De Lima’s request for bail.

(Benjie Cuaresma/AI/MNM)