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De Lima: House leaders just trying to save face

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday, December 13, slammed the ethics and criminal complaints lodged against her by House of Representatives leaders for her alleged interference in a congressional inquiry.

For the senator, the move of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali – all allies of President Rodrigo Duterte – is nothing but a self-serving act.

"The House leaders' move to file complaints against me at the Senate ethics committee and at the Department of Justice is nothing but an attempt to save face after the House inquiry on the Bilibid drug trade was exposed to be all of a farce," said De Lima in a statement.

In a House hearing, De Lima's former security aide and alleged bagman Ronnie Dayan said the senator told him to shun the probe, as lawmakers would only make a show out of them. De Lima confirmed this, but said she just gave "advice" to Dayan.

In the same hearing, lawmakers drew criticism as they focused on questions about the romantic relationship between De Lima and Dayan. Some believe the questions were just meant to shame De Lima, the fiercest critic of Duterte. (READ: Lawmakers feast on De Lima-Dayan love affair)

In a 13-page complaint complaint filed before the Senate ethics panel, House leaders accused the senator of violating Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code.

The law penalizes any person "who shall restrain another from attending as a witness, or who shall induce disobedience to a summon or refusal to be sworn by any such body or official."

They also alleged that De Lima was "unparliamentary" for calling the House inquiry a "sham" and a "kangaroo court" and that she violated Congress' rule governing inquiries in aid of legislation for her "undue interference" in the conduct of the proceedings.

Public servant, integrity

De Lima, however, denied violating any law and breaking her oath as a public servant.

"As former Commission on Human Rights 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," she said.

De Lima said the House complaints against her are just part of political persecution.

"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 could to accomplish their personal and political agendas," she said.

"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 6 months in power," the senator added.

De Lima is currently in the United States for a speaking engagement. She vowed to return to the country to face the charges against her. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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

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