MANILA, Philippines – There is enough evidence for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a case against Sen. Leila de Lima for possible violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said yesterday.
Lacson said he was able to go over the affidavits of the witnesses the DOJ presented yesterday at the House of Representatives, particularly those on De Lima.
“I took special notice of the narrations of (National Bureau of Investigation) agent Jovencio Ablen Jr. and his superior while detailed at the NBP (New Bilibid Prison), deputy director Rafael Ragos, not to mention those of Colangco, Magleo and the other high-profile inmates,” Lacson said, referring to convicts Herbert Colangco and Rodolfo Magleo.
“My own assessment of the evidentiary value of those affidavits, and I could fairly conclude, based on some verified and verifiable facts, that those allegations are credible enough to get past the probable cause requirement to file a criminal information in any court of law,” he added.
Last Monday, an overwhelming majority of the senators voted to remove De Lima as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights in light of allegations that she was using the committee for political purposes, specifically to destroy the reputation of President Duterte.
De Lima initiated an inquiry into the alleged extrajudicial and summary killings of suspected drug pushers under the current administration’s war on drugs.
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In the third hearing of the committee, De Lima presented a self-confessed killer, Edgar Matobato, who claimed to be a member of the so-called Davao death squad (DDS).
Matobato claimed the DDS took its orders from Duterte when he was still mayor of Davao City, as well as his son, incumbent vice mayor Paolo Duterte.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano would later deliver a privilege speech denouncing the actions of De Lima as chair of the committee.
Asked if De Lima could face expulsion as a senator if she is charged by the DOJ, Lacson said that expulsion could only be a consequence of an ethics committee action.
“But, in case she’s indicted for an unbailable offense such as what’s provided for in RA 9165, then she won’t be able to perform her duties as a senator, just like our former colleagues who are facing plunder cases with the Sandiganbayan,” Lacson said, referring to former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., who are detained in Camp Crame.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the action taken against De Lima was akin to a reprimand on the part of the Senate.
“It’s best that we have an impartial chair, specially in controversial issues,” Sotto said.
He said that the Senate should not be seen as being subservient to the administration just because of its action against De Lima.
“Independence from both subservience and antagonism is why we acted. Independence is not just confined to not being supportive of the President. It could also be antagonistic and adversarial to the President and we do not want both,” Sotto said.
“There will always be two sides of an issue and either side should respect the views, no matter how unreasonable and vicious they may be,” Lacson, for his part, said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the neutrality of De Lima, based on the way she had been conducting the hearings, was questionable. He said this was the reason why he voted for the removal of De Lima as committee chair.
He said the hearings should continue but Matobato should no longer be called to testify.
Presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo, for his part, said Senate majority members who removed De Lima as committee chair were merely stopping her from further besmirching the name of the President.
He criticized De Lima for her unfounded and malicious accusations against the President.
He also said the former justice secretary was using the Senate committee on justice and human rights for personal reasons.
“The ouster of Senator De Lima as chair of the committee on justice is a testament to the overwhelming majority members of the Senate’s sense of propriety that it will not countenance a member’s propensity for besmirching the reputation of President Duterte by unfounded and malicious imputations, using the committee as tool to achieve her end,” Panelo said.
Panelo unleashed a mouthful against De Lima for pushing for an inquiry into the extrajudicial killings in Davao City when the President was still mayor, and up until he became president.
Her removal as committee chair, Panelo said, “is a come uppance or a deserved rebuke from her peers in the Senate.”
He stressed Duterte does not interfere in the affairs of an equal branch of the government. “Such intrusion is anathema to his character,” Panelo added.
He also scored De Lima for blaming the President for her ouster.
“Not wanting to blame herself for creating the circumstances that led to her ouster, De Lima points to PRRD as her scapegoat for her present predicament. Getting two thirds negative vote of her own colleagues to remove her from the chair of the committee on justice is eloquent proof of her undoing and reckless abuse of her position as senator,” Panelo said.
The senator should have inhibited herself from chairing the Senate committee on justice and human rights, he added.
Panelo pointed out that De Lima had “previously positioned herself as a political adversary” of the President.
He recalled the rift between Duterte and De Lima started way back, to the time when she was chair of the Commission on Human Rights.
In a bid to illustrate De Lima’s bias against Duterte, Panelo noted her having “embarked on a biased and unsuccessful investigation of extrajudicial killings in Davao City, concluding that the then Davao City mayor Duterte was behind the death squad even before she commenced her probe.”
“Her being the subject of a House inquiry on her alleged involvement in the proliferation of illegal drug activities in the national penitentiary during her watch as secretary of justice should have heightened her sense of delicadeza and removed herself from the justice committee instead of diminishing it and clinging like a leech to the investigating body,” Panelo said. – Christina Mendez