HOUSE leaders on Monday filed an ethics complaint against Senator Leila de Lima before the Senate committee on ethics for disobeying a summons when she advised her former lover and driver to go into hiding to avoid testifying before a congressional inquiry into illegal drugs.
The complaint was filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House justice committee, ahead of separate criminal charges that are expected on Tuesday.
They were also accompanied by former NBI deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala, who filed a separate case against De Lima.
The complaint stemmed from De Lima’s advice to Ronnie Dayan, her former bodyguard and alleged bagman, not to testify before the congressional inquiry into the proliferation of illegal drugs at the New Bilibid Prison when De Lima was Justice secretary.
De Lima was on an official trip to the United States and Germany when the complaint was lodged before the Senate committee on ethics headed by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
She has repeatedly insisted that what he did was not an obstruction of justice, but “obstruction of persecution.”
“What justice are they talking about? I couldn’t see any justice in their proceedings. They didn’t give me any justice. There’s no justice in what they are doing to me. So why call it obstruction of justice?” De Lima had said.
“It would be better called obstruction of persecution. I’m trying to obstruct the acts of persecution being done to me by this administration,” she added.
Sotto said there was no question about jurisdiction since the acts complained of happened when she was a senator.
Sotto said he planned to have the complainants and the respondent face each other during a hearing.
He said expulsion from the Senate, the most severe punishment, needed a two-thirds vote of the 16 members of the ethics committee. The committee could also vote to admonish De Lima or dismiss the complaint.
Umali said he was hopeful the cases filed against De Lima would prosper.
“We expect the Senate to [take] the necessary action,” De Lima said, adding that the issue against De Lima had created “disharmony” between the two chambers of Congress.
Umali said he felt the House committee on justice was disrespected when De Lima ignored several invitations to shed light on the NBP controversy.
“Is that still within the purview if inter-chamber courtesy?” Umali asked.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was once a fugitive, urged De Lima to return to the country after she receives an award in the United States and delivers her speech at the Annual Conference on Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, Germany.
“Come back. Don’t be like me,” Lacson said.
Lacson was declared a fugitive after he left the country on Jan. 5, 2010, two days before he was charged with the murders of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in November 2000.
De Lima was the Justice secretary when Lacson went into hiding for almost a year. He returned to the country when fhe Court of Appeal’s voided his arrest warrant.
De Lima is facing at least eight drug related charges filed with the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman.
Lacson said De Lima assured him that she would come back to face the charges against her.
The senator said there was nothing wrong with De Lima leaving the country since no warrant of arrest was issued against her and because Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III had approved the trip.
De Lima said both visits were important to her because as a senator, she will have the opportunity to speak before influential world leaders and global thinkers on raising awareness and support for human rights.
In a statement, De Lima said there is nothing to worry about as she will surely return, along with her staff, who will be with her during these foreign trips.
“I hope my brief absence would provide a welcome relief and respite to my detractors and critics. I will keep them in mind though,” she said. With Maricel V. Cruz
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