New justice committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon on Tuesday criticized Sen. Leila de Lima for supposedly using the Senate as a tool to “divert the media” and “protect herself” amid what was then an imminent House probe on drug proliferation in the national penitentiary when she was still justice secretary.
Gordon, one of the 16 senators who voted to oust De Lima as justice panel chair on Monday, said De Lima was getting back at President Rodrigo Duterte when she presented a confessed hitman as witness without informing the committee and the Senate leadership beforehand.
“Kailangan ‘yung talagang objective. Hindi ‘yung dahil binabanatan ka ng Pangulo, babanat ka ng personal. Kukuha ka ng testigo bigla bigla na hindi kilala ng komite. Hindi mo bibigyan ng pasubali ang komite… Dapat nasa lugar,” Gordon said over Radyo Inquirer 990AM. “Parang may anggulo. Madadala ang Senado sa away nilang personal, hindi ‘yung sa imbestigasyon na dapat malapat.”
(We need things to be objective. Just because the President was criticizing her, she wanted to hit back and personally at that. She immediately produced a witness that the committee does not know. She did not inform the committee. Things should be done accordingly. There seems to be an objective. The Senate will be dragged into her personal quarrel, instead of focusing on the investigation.)
“May ibabato sa kanya ngayong araw sa Kongreso eh inunahan niya, nilabas niya ito para maligaw ‘yung direksyon ng media, parang almost an instinct of protecting herself at the expense of the Senate. Hindi pwede ‘yun,” he added.
(She jumped the gun on the Congress which was going to probe her by diverting the attention of the media to this, like almost an instinct of protecting herself at the expense of the Senate. We cannot allow that.)
De Lima, who initiated the Senate inquiry into the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country amid the administration’s bloody war on drugs, is being accused by Duterte of coddling drug lords at the New Bilibid Prisons during her stint at the justice department, which is the subject of an ongoing congressional inquiry.
Gordon noted that testimonies of witness Edgar Matobato, who claimed he was a member of the notorious Davao Death Squad, were not part of the resolution sought to investigate recent drug-related deaths in the country. He said senators have yet to study and determine whether Matobato would still be relevant in the hearings.
Noting that he is not siding with the President, Gordon vowed to continue the investigation of suspected summary executions and look into possible cases of abuse of power.
“Definitely ang gusto natin masunod ‘yung intensyon ng Senado na malaman kung ano ang puno’t dulo nitong maraming namamatay na sinasabing vigilante, maraming namamatay na pulis sa bakbakan. At para makita kung ano ang dapat gawin ng Kongreso sa mga ganitong bagay, kung merong ginagawang katiwalian sa pagpatay. Siympre sagrado ang human rights sa atin, sagrado rin ang katarungan sa atin,” he said.
(Definitely, the Senate’s intention is to know the reason for the spate of vigilante killings and the deaths of the police in the war on drugs. This is so that the Congress will know how to deal with these events and if there really are irregularities in the deaths. Human rights and justice are sacred in our country.)
Gordon earlier proposed to give Duterte extended authority to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus (show the body) supposedly to intensify the government’s war on drugs and terrorism, which legitimizes warrantless arrests and prolonged detention even without formal charges. De Lima described Gordon’s proposal as a “creeping authoritarianism.”
Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Monday moved to declare the chairmanship and membership of the justice committee vacant. His motion came after the privilege speech of Sen. Alan Cayetano, Duterte’s defeated running mate, where he also criticized De Lima’s handling of the investigation on the spate of killings.
Only four senators, namely Sen. Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Bam Aquino, and Risa Hontiveros, voted against Pacquiao’s motion. Gordon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson were elected new chairman and vice chairman, respectively, while De Lima, Cayetano, Pacquiao, Pangilinan, Grace Poe, and Juan Miguel Zubiri were elected members. IDL/rga