Jinggoy, Cam fail to stop De Lima confirmation
MANILA, Philippines – “Ngayong Araw ng Kalayaan, malaya ako sa paninira sa akin.” (On Independence Day, I am free from personal attacks against me.)
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima made this proud declaration on the eve of Independence Day, when her appointment was finally confirmed despite attempts by Senator Jinggoy Estrada and whistleblower Sandra Cam to question her actions as attorney general, and to raise her alleged “illicit affairs.”
Charged with plunder over the pork barrel scam which De Lima’s department investigated, Estrada grilled the secretary on the probe. Yet in the end, the Commission on Appointments (CA) justice committee voted to unanimously confirm De Lima after 4 years in office.
“I’m very, very relieved. It’s a very humbling process kahit ganoong may mga nag-attempt pang pahirapan ako o manggulo,” De Lima told reporters after her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, June 11. (It’s a very humbling process even if there were those who tried to give me a hard time or derail the process.)
De Lima added: “Now, I can truly, really give more than 100% focus on my job. I try not to have this matter affect me in my work. But it’s a different feeling that at least I was able to hurdle this whole process.”
The committee paid no attention to Cam’s claim that she has a video that will supposedly prove the secretary’s affairs. Cam was present in the hearing but was not asked to speak.
De Lima said she believed someone was behind Cam, calling the whistleblower a former friend.
“There might be a person or persons behind her. I am not mad at Sandra. Sandra, enough please, enough. Tama na iyan (Stop it),” De Lima said.
While he did not vote against De Lima, Estrada questioned her actions on an April 17, 2013, letter of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles addressed to President Benigno Aquino III.
De Lima said the President’s office asked her to respond to Napoles’ claims of extortion. Contrary to Estrada’s statement, she said the letter had no marginal notes from Aquino.
Estrada asked De Lima why she did not investigate retired General Rodolfo Diaz, who along with prosecution lawyer Levito Baligod allegedly demanded P38 million from Napoles’ lawyer Freddie Villamor in exchange for dropping the serious illegal detention charges against her.
Aquino said last week that Estrada might know more about the letter because Diaz was the commander of the Presidential Security Group during the presidency of his father, Joseph Estrada.
Estrada said: “I have nothing to do with it. Whether Diaz is investigated or not, I don’t care. But isn’t it SOP for you to investigate all those involved?”
De Lima said the response of the National Bureau of Investigation and Baligod were “to me, satisfactory.”
“Napoles could have submitted a formal complaint. I truly believed it was a desperate attempt of Mrs Napoles to cast aspersions on the integrity of investigators investigating her not only for the serious illegal detention case but also the PDAF scam,” De Lima told Estrada.
Estrada did not inhibit himself from the hearing despite De Lima’s role in the filing of a plunder complaint against him over the pork barrel scam. The senator was charged in court for allegedly conniving with Napoles to funnel discretionary funds to her bogus non-governmental organizations in exchange for P172 million.
Hold departure orders, Malampaya probe
Estrada also brought up the disbarment cases against De Lima, two out of the 3 related to her decision to stop former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from leaving the Philippines in 2011 despite the absence of a hold departure order from the courts.
De Lima said her action was based on a Department of Justice (DOJ) circular allowing her to issue a watch list order on persons being investigated. The issue is now pending with the Supreme Court.
Estrada then related the matter to his own plunder case.
“Are the 3 senators in the watch list,” Estrada asked, referring to himself and his co-accused, senators Ramon Bong Revilla Jr and Juan Ponce Enrile.
De Lima responded: “No, you can travel any time. There is no hold departure order yet, no arrest warrant yet. There is no legal impediment.”
Estrada said: “Don’t worry, Ma’am. I don’t have any intention of leaving the country.”
De Lima responded, “Thank you.”
The senator also asked De Lima about the investigation into the P900-million Malampaya fund scam, particularly the liability of self-confessed bagman Ruby Tuason, a former family friend who turned against him.
De Lima said: “The Ombudsman is still evaluating whether or not to give Mrs Tuason immunity in the Malampaya scam case. I can only answer the provisional admission in the witness protection program [the DOJ gave her.”
The Ombudsman gave Tuason immunity but only in the pork barrel scam case.
'Fake video, gutter tactics'
De Lima said she was glad that the CA ignored the alleged sex video Cam claims to have. She dismissed Cam's statement that the whistleblower might release the video.
"That's a threat. Doesn't she know she has been committing a crime all this time? Her insults, her attacks, these are all actionable already," De Lima said. "When she releases that and I'm sure it's fake, that's actionable. Remember, whether fake or genuine, that's still a violation of the anti-voyeurism act."
"Hindi ko nga pinapatulan. Attacks like that do not deserve an ounce of dignified response on my part. I refuse to be dragged in such gutter tactics."
Despite all the politics that came up in her hearing, De Lima said her confirmation pushes her to work harder.
“Lalo akong gaganahan, lalo akong magsisipag, lalo akong magiging determinado na gawin ko ang mandato ko.” (I will have more motivation, work harder and be more determined to fulfill my mandate.) – Rappler.com