The House’s ‘climax’ congressmen: Who are they?

Jodesz Gavilan

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The House’s ‘climax’ congressmen: Who are they?
Long-time politicians, a former law school dean, and a neophyte legislator who advocates for the rights of the marginalized ask De Lima's former aide Ronnie Dayan questions the hearing could have done without

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers in the House of Representatives crossed the line on Thursday, November 24, as they pounded Ronnie Dayan with questions about his intimate relationship with his former employer Senator Leila de Lima. 

The former aide and ex-lover of De Lima faced the House committee on justice two days after he was arrested in La Union. He has been accused of being De Lima’s bagman in the illegal drug trade. 

Netizens were quick to criticize legislators who asked Dayan |irrelevant questions that sought to bring out juicy details about their relationship, but which had nothing to do with the issue they were supposedly investigating. (READ: Netizens on Dayan, De Lima questions: ‘Papa Jack’, ‘crossing the line’)

Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro, 1-Ang Edukasyon Representative Salvador Belaro Jr, and Kabayan Representative Harry Roque all asked inane questions that ranged from whether what Dayan and De Lima had was “true love” to when the two entered the “climax” of their relationship. (READ: ‘Kailan kayo nag-climax?’: Nonsense questions at the Bilibid drugs hearing)

Duterte ally Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia defended her colleagues, saying that the questions were important to establish De Lima’s links in the drug trade. 

But it was still possible to investigate De Lima’s alleged involvement in the drug trade without having to ask Dayan to divulge private and intimate details about their relationship. Several lawmakers were able to do so. 

For example, Leyte 3rd District Representative Vicente Veloso refused to dwell on the relationship during the hearing. “Ayokong makialam doon. Wala kaming pakialam sa relasyon ‘nyo ni Senator Leila de Lima.” (I don’t want to interfere there. We don’t care about your relationship with Senator Leila de Lima.)

Who are these legislators who asked questions the hearing could have done without? 

Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas

During the hearing, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas asked Dayan the typhoon signal that approximates his relationship with De Lima.

The Representative of the 1st district of Ilocos Norte asked: “Noong mga panahon na ‘yan, malakas pa ‘yung pag-iibigan ‘nyo ni Secretary or humina na …Ano ibig sabihin ng signal number 1? Para lang makita ko ‘yung scale, ano ba pinakamataas na signal na inabot ‘nyo? Ano ang pinakasukdulan at pinakamataas na signal na inabot ‘nyo?” (During those times, was your love with the Secretary still strong or had it already weakened?…What does signal number 1 mean? Just so I could see the scale, what was the highest signal that you two reached? What was the peak and the highest signal that you two reached?)

Fariñas graduated from the Ateneo Law School in 1978 after 7 years. In a Newsbreak piece first published in 2011, his prolonged stay at the Ateneo was because of then law dean Fr Joaquin Bernas, who allegedly thought the scion of a rich Ilocano family was “making a mockery” of the school’s standards. 

Fariñas’ first foray into politics was in 1980 when he became the youngest mayor in the history of Laoag City. In 1986, he became governor and held the spot for 10 years before finally joining the House of Representatives in 1998.

His life, however, was not without issue.  

Fariñas was allegedly an abusive husband when his wife, former beauty queen Maria Theresa Carlson, was still alive. According to a 2001 Newsbreak piece, abuse allegedly started as early as the late 1980s. 

The Ilocano politician vehemently denied these allegations and claimed all were spread by detractors wanting to destroy his reputation.  

In 1996, however, Carlson accused her husband of domestic abuse during an interview with the Probe Team. But a week later, she took back everything she said when she appeared in Magandang Gabi Bayan with Fariñas. 

In 2001, Carlson leaped to her death from the 23rd floor of a condominium in Greenhills, San Juan City. A Philippine Star report said she and her maid went to Malacañang hours before her death to give then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a video tape allegedly showing Fariñas hurting one of their children.

Her death inspired Task Force Maria which supported the passage of Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act in 2004. 

Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro

One of the questions House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro asked during the hearing with Dayan included: ”Ito ay ginawa sapagka’t tapat ang iyong damdamin kay Secretary De Lima. Ang ibig mo bang sabihin sa pagdinig na ito na ang iyong relasyon kay Secretary De Lima ay hindi lamang upang saluhan siya na magtampisaw sa pagmamahalan kung hindi siya ay saluhan din sa pagpawi ng init ng katawan?” (You did it because what you felt for Secretary De Lima was true. Are you saying in this hearing that your relationship with Secretary De Lima was meant to not just frolic with her in love but also in lust?) 

A long-time voice of Capiz in the House, Castro has served for at least 13 years in Congress. He was first elected legislator in 2001 and served for 3 terms until 2010. 

Due to term limits, his wife Jane took over the position from 2010 to 2013.

Castro once again gained a seat in the House in 2013 and was elected again in the 2016 elections.

The 65-year-old is a lawyer by profession. A graduate from San Beda College, Castro was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1976.  

Among the bills he authored is the reimposition of the death penalty, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and the anti-dynasty bill.

1-Ang Edukasyon Representative Salvador Belaro Jr

During the hearing, Salvador Belaro Jr of 1-Ang Edukasyon asked Dayan: “Palakas nang palakas hanggang intensity 5. Kailan kayo nag-climax? Intensity 5, anong year?” (Your love became stronger and stronger until it hit intensity 5. When did you reach climax? Intensity 5, what year?) 

His line of questioning, however, appears to depart from his party-list group’s goal of “meaningful changes in our educational system.” 

Before 1-Ang Edukasyon, Belaro was a nominee for Oragaon, a sectoral group for Bicolanos, in 2010. The party-list group failed to get enough votes to secure a seat that year.

Besides a law degree from the University of the Philippines’ College of Law, the neophyte legislator also holds a masters of law degree from Cornell University. 

Just like De Lima, Belaro is a lawyer who hails from Camarines Sur. He was previously a Commissioner of Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and headed the St Dominic Savio College of Law. 

Kabayan Representative Harry Roque 

Lawyer Harry Roque represents Kabalikat ng Mamamayan (KABAYAN) in the House. His party list hopes to contribute to the “full realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of all Filipinos, particularly the marginalized.”

Prior to entering Congress, Roque handled high-profile cases with the Center for International Law (CenterLaw) – cases of families of the Maguindanao Massacre victims, of slain journalist and environmental activist Gerry Ortega, of slain transgender Jennifer Laude, among others.

Roque was also the lawyer of at least 70 members of the Malaya Lolas group composed of victims of rape and sexual slavery during the Japanese Occupation. 

But during the hearing on Thursday, November 24, Roque’s line of questioning focused on De Lima’s alleged “frailties of a woman.” 

He asked Dayan: “Pinagsamantalahan mo ba itong si Leila de Lima nung nagkaroon kayo ng relasyon? Siya ba ay naging mukhang maselan noong kayo ay nagkaroon ng relasyon? Sa tingin mo ba pinagsamantalahan mo ang kahinaan ni Leila de Lima bilang isang babae noong kayo ay nagkaroon ng relasyon? Nung sinabi mong hindi mo pinagsamantalahan ang kanyang kahinaan bilang babae, ano ang ibig mong sabihin?” (Did you take advantage of Leila de Lima when you had a relationship? Did she seem sensitive to you when you started your relationship? Do you think that you took advantage of Leila de Lima’s weakness as a woman when you had a relationship? When you said that you did not take advantage of her weakness as a woman, what did you mean?) 

He also told De Lima’s ex-lover: “Napakahilig mo naman magsalat.” (You’re very fond of groping.) –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.