For all her rants of the allegations against her being a farce, and that the Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Vitaliano has no evidence to back up allegations against her, the first of perhaps a number of criminal cases she has to eventually face has been filed on the issue of obstruction of justice.
House of Representatives leaders yesterday trooped to the DoJ and filed a criminal complaint against Sen. Leila de Lima for snubbing the lower’s house’s summons on her during a legislative inquiry into the alleged protection racket for drug lords in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when de Lima was still secretary of justice. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, along with other congressmen, filed the complaint against de Lima for ignoring the summons issued by Congress and for ordering her admitted lover, Ronnie Dayan, to do the same.
House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and House committee on justice Chairman Reynaldo Umali joined in signing the charges against de Lima for violation of Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code for disobedience to summons issued by the national assembly, its committee or subcommittees.
The senator was invited to attend the congressional inquiry on the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the NBP in September 20 and 21 and October 5 and 6.
“Respondent opted to ignore all invitations and failed to attend any of the hearings conducted by the committee,” the complaint stated.
“Worse, respondent even insulted the House of Representative by calling its committee a kangaroo court/committee and its proceedings a sham.”
A subpoena was also issued to Dayan but it was also ignored. Then, in October 6, after failing to attend the hearing, a show cause order was issued ordering Dayan to explain why he should not be cited for contempt.
In October 10, for issuing the order, he was ordered arrested by Congress.
After Dayan’s arrest, the congressional inquiry was reopened last month. During the hearing, it was revealed that de Lima instructed Dayan not to appear in Congress. The senator gave the instruction through a text message to Dayan’s daughter.
“As an incumbent senator, former Secretary of Justice and a lawyer, advising and inducing Mr. Dayan to hide and not to attend the House inquiry for which he was duly summoned is tantamount to inducing disobedience to summons issued by Congress of which she is a sitting member,” the complaint stated.
Violation of Article 150 has a penalty of arresto mayor or one month and 1 day up to six months of imprisonment or a fine ranging from P200 to P1,000 or both (fine and imprisonment).
The House filed a case against de Lima before the Senate Ethics committee on the same charges, although the senator cannot be charged in the Senate committee for the alleged drug protection racket in which she wa allegedly involved, as this occurred during her stint as Justice chief and not as a senator.
However, a criminal case against de Lima had already been filed regarding the drug protection racket in which de Lima has been named as having received drug money, as testified by man NBP prisoners, as well as the self-admitted drug lord, Kerwin Espinosa who testified before the Senate that he had given Dayan, who was also the collector of drug money for de Lima for her campaign kitty. Dayan confirmed this also at the Senate hearing.
Leila slams case filed in ethics panel
De Lima yesterday slammed the filing of the ethics complaint against her by leaders of the House, saying that the move is just an attempt to save face for their failure to pin her on alleged drug links in their probe in the lower house.
The inquiry on the alleged continuing drug trade inside the NBP was exposed as a farce, which is always what she claims.
“As I have repeatedly said, the first casualty of the administration’s ‘war on drugs’ is the truth. And it seems those in power are determined to do everything they can to accomplish their personal and political agendas. Little do they know that the public is slowly beginning to realize who are responsible for the real crisis our nation is facing, because they have no real accomplishments to show after six months in power,” she said in a statement.
However, de Lima has failed to substantiate her claim that “the public” realizes who is responsible for the real crisis the nation faces, as President Duterte remains very popular still.
“As former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair and justice secretary and now as a senator, I will never break my oath as a public servant. Despite the attacks against me, my honor and integrity as a woman and as a public official remains intact,” de Lima added.
Senate President Pro Tempore Frank Drilon, an ally of de Lima and party mate in the Liberal Party (LP) said the matter of whether his colleague received drug money as alleged in the House inquiry, is best settled before the courts, not the Senate ethics committee.
Such issue being leveled at de Lima are alleged acts committed long before she became a senator.
Drilon, however, admitted that it is unavoidable in an open society to encounter such a case as that of de Lima being politically harassed by critics.
“When we go to the real McCoy of issues, these must be simply decided on whether or not she violated our ethical conduct,” he said.
Drilon said the case filed against de Lima by the House leadership will have to be deliberated upon first, whether the ethics and privileges committee has jurisdiction over the issue.
“After we have decided on that, we ask the respondent to file the answer to the complaint. After that we hold hearings, and let me highlight the fact that the Senate ethics committee hearings - unlike any other committee hearings in the Senate hearings - are adversarial hearings,” he said.
“Adversarial means that the process goes like in a court, where you question and answer, and a cross examination, because this already involves the integrity of a member of the Senate, and therefore he or she must be given every opportunity to hear his side, as contrasted to all other hearings which are in aid of legislation in which we only want to draw the answer we can use either in crafting legislation or amending an existing law. But not in the ethics committee since it is like a proceeding in court, though not as strict as the Rules of Court. But due process is strictly observed, since the ethics case is no longer a matter of writing or amending a law, but whether a member of the Senate should be disciplined,” Drilon explained.
Ironic it may seem that while charges against de Lima appear to be now piling up, the senator was given a recognition for “standing up to an extremist leader.”
De Lima was commended for her efforts in investigating the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country and honored as one of the 13 global thinkers in the “Challengers” category under the 100 leading global thinkers for this year by Foreign Policy magazine in Washington D.C.
“Since taking office in June, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has waged a brutal war on drugs. Thousands of alleged traffickers, dealers, and users have been executed by state forces or pro-government vigilantes,” the citation said.
“In response, Sen. Leila de Lima has been a steadfast advocate for the rule of law. As the chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, she spearheaded an investigation into the extrajudicial killings—work that landed her firmly in Duterte’s crosshairs,” it added.
The Foreign Policy magazine also cited how De Lima has bravely refused to be silenced by the blatant and incessant attacks by President Duterte’s allies as she stood her ground and vowed for her innocence against trumped-up charges leveled against her.
“President Duterte’s loyalists accused de Lima of being involved in the drug trade and ousted her as head of the investigation in September. That didn’t silence her, though. She called on the United Nations to examine the violence, arguing that Manila isn’t equipped ‘to serve complete justice to the victims’,” the citation noted.
Leila blast Gordon
De Lima yesterday also lashed back at Sen. Richard Gordon for his committee report on the Senate’s probe on extrajudicial killings, that among others, targeted her and another colleague, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.
De Lima said the committee report No. 18 of the justice and human rights panel chaired by Gordon was about libeling, attacking and pillorying her and Trillanes who dared come out with guns blazing against the President as the inducer of the alleged ongoing EJKs in the country.
The neophyte lawmaker took offense at Gordon in his taking an issue on her and Trillanes’ alleged unparliamentary behavior in one of the public hearings of the said committee.
More importantly, she said in her “dissenting report”, the panel report is aimed at exonerating President Duterte and the administration from any involvement in the bloody drug war.
“Much has been seen and said in the media about the high drama of Gordon’s wounded pride and indignant defense of his honor. It does not deserve any further treatment in this dissenting report other than as a personal manifesto of similar indignation against the use of a committee report and committee proceedings to attack two senators of the Republic for the simple reason that they were making up a cover-up and whitewash of the investigation difficult to accomplish, what with all their noise and protestations against a railroading chair,” she said in her 151-page report with 250 pages of annexes.
“The Gordon Report makes it official and calls on the Senate to hold de Lima and Trillanes accountable for their actions in order to preserve the integrity of the Senate. Be that as it may, after the House inquiry, we welcome another opportunity for persecution by the President’s men in the Senate, encouraged by the saying that the tree that bears most fruit is the tree that gets most stoned.
“If the stoning of de Lima is to find its sequel in the Senate, if it has not yet started in another hearing that featured a certain Kerwin Espinosa and Ronnie Dayan, so be it. The President’s men will find this woman standing her ground, fighting an old world of men regurgitated from not so distant past, struggling to clamber up the throat of history for one last gasp of tyranny over truth,” she added.
In filing her dissenting report, De Lima said it seeks to provide an alternative analysis of the facts presented and the conclusions deduced there from based on applicable laws and rules.
“The objective is to present to the Senate and, ultimately, to the Filipino people what this Representation honestly believes to be the just conclusions and proper courses on the issues at hand” she added.
De Lima said the Senate probe failed on several grounds, notably on its refusal to hear the testimonies of EJK witnesses of the Commission on Human Rights, its premature termination, its failure to weigh in the testimonies of Senate witness Edgar Matobato, among others.
“Due to the premature and abrupt termination of the Senate investigation, no comprehensive, in-depth gathering, and assessment of the evidence was done by the Committee. Instead, what came out was a virtual whitewash designed to absolve the national leadership as led by the President,” she said.
“The unreasonable exclusion of important witnesses had precluded a thorough and intensive treatment of the subject of EJKs,” she added, mindful that Matobato’s testimony laid the foundation into explaining the national phenomenon of state-sponsored EJKs