De Lima doubts senators’ fairness in ethics complaints against her

Camille Elemia
De Lima doubts senators’ fairness in ethics complaints against her
'Yun ang nakakasakit doon eh, 'yung mismong kasamahan mo may mga nagdududa, o may mga naniniwala sa mga kasinungalingan ng iba,' laments the senator

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima doubts that some of her colleagues would exercise fairness in handling the ethics complaints against her.

De Lima said some senators in the 7-member ethics committee have already expressed “hostility” towards her, seemingly believing the accusation of no less than President Rodrigo Duterte that she is linked to illegal drugs. 

“I have to be honest. I’m not sure about some of them, because some of them have shown some hostility against me lalo na noong ongoing pa lang ‘yung sa Matobato hearings (especially when the Matobato hearings were ongoing),” De Lima said in an interview on Wednesday, January 4.

“Some members of the Senate are having insinuations about me having not done enough as secretary of justice and worse, about my being complicit in the illegal drug trade,” she added.

When asked, the senator said she would not name names as she does not want “to create unnecessary tensions” among her colleagues. She said these senators have given statements at the Senate hall and also to media “which show that they are somehow hostile” to her.

“Some of them, not all,” De Lima clarified.

The senator said she is hurt that her colleagues believe the allegations and “lies” against her, adding she is ready to explain her side to the panel. 

“‘Yun ang nakakasakit dun eh, ‘yung mismong kasamahan mo may mga nagdududa, o may mga naniniwala sa mga kasinungalingan ng iba (That’s what hurts, your colleagues would doubt you, would believe others’ lies about you),” the senator said.

‘Proper course of action’

While there have been public statements issued against her, De Lima said she is hoping that her colleagues would listen to her first. De Lima urged them to consider the fact that, like them, she was elected into office.

“I’m hoping and praying that they will first hear my side because I’ll express what I want to express and I hope they are sincere in addressing the matter and exhibit a high sense of fairness and objectivity. They should also think that, like them, I also have the people’s mandate,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

While she said she would respect their decision, De Lima plans to oppose “obvious” signs of bias and partiality against her by filing a motion for inhibition.

“I have to respect their position in the ethics complaint, unless makakita ako ng mga (unless I see) apparent or obvious signs of hostility, and partiality, bias, or prejudice against me in the course of the proceedings before the ethics committee. Then I will have to take, to avail of the proper course of action,” she said.

Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III chairs the Senate ethics committee while Senator Panfilo Lacson is the vice chair. Both said the panel has clear jurisdiction over the ethics complaint filed by House leaders against De Lima.

The other committee members include senators Gregorio Honasan II, Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, Manny Pacquiao, and Francis Escudero.

Ex-officio members, or those automatically part of the panel by virtue of their positions, include Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon and Minority Leader Ralph Recto.

Sotto and Lacson earlier said there is “strong” proof against De Lima, citing the “corroborative” evidence presented by inmates in a House probe. Most of these witnesses were granted immunity from suit for their testimonies at the congressional inquiry.

It was Pacquiao, a staunch ally of the President, who moved to oust De Lima as justice committee chairperson, following the testimony of confessed hitman Edgar Matobato that Duterte ordered killings in Davao City. (READ: Edgar Matobato: Liar or truth-teller?)

Poe, meanwhile, earlier pointed out how illegal drugs “flourished” not just in the New Bilibid Prison but also nationwide when De Lima was still the justice secretary.

Asked if she was referring to Poe, De Lima refused to answer, saying she would just outline her accomplishments as DOJ chief in a report.

“Sana man lang nag-re-research din sila. Marami rin naman akong nagawa as (I have also accomplished many things as) secretary of justice in the anti-drug area. That’s why I’ll be issuing that sort of report. Medyo, hindi ko hahabaan naman siguro (It would not be long). And I would wish to furnish all members of the Senate with a copy of that,” she said.

When she was justice chief, De Lima led the series of raids at the NBP which bared the privileges enjoyed by high-profile inmates at the state penitentiary. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com