Leaders of the House of Representatives delivered a show cause order intended to compel Senator Leila de Lima to answer questions on her supposed drug links and allegedly advising her former driver and acknowledged lover Ronnie Dayan, against honoring a congressional subpoena.
The order was handed over to Senate Secretary Lutgardo Barbo by Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Oriental Representative Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the justice committee conducting the inquiry into the narcotics trade inside the New Bilibid Prisons, in which De Lima supposedly received millions of pesos from convicted drug lords, late Tuesday morning.
The two lawmakers also lead the House contingent that will go to the Senate for the bicameral conference meeting on the proposed 2017 budget.
“We will be at the Senate for the bicameral conference on the 2017 budget and will deliver it to the secretary of the Senate,” Farinas said in a text message earlier in the day.
In a separate phone interview, Umali said the show cause order compels De Lima to explain within 72 hours upon receipt why she should not be cited in contempt for advising Dayan to go into hiding instead of attending the House probe.
The order threatens De Lima with sanctions, including a possible citation for contempt, “should you fail or refuse to comply with this Order.”
“Tama ang ginawa nila na dito muna idaan (They were correct to submit it here) to make it official, meaning may official cognizance na tinanggap dito sa Senado bago kay (there is official cognizance that the Senate accepted it before) Senator Leila De Lima,” Barbo told reporters in an interview after receiving the order.
He said the order would be submitted to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and to the committee on ethics and privileges chaired by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
“We will follow the due process. Kung papasagutin si Senator Leila De Lima (If Senator Leila de Lima should be required to respond), the ethics committee should know about it. The committee on ethics, headed by Senator Vicente Sotto, will gather from its members and find out kung ano ang gagawin ng komite nila (what they committee should do),” Barbo explained.
He said that the committee’s decision will then be deliberated in plenary.
“Only the Senate can administratively deal with (its) own members,” Barbo stressed.
He added that the show cause order not connotes administrative sanction but “saka may (there is also a) criminal liability factor here. So bahala na sila mag-decide sa komite, puwedeng sabihin nila na mukhang may mali ito sa amin, puwede din nila sabihin na pasasagutin si Senator De Lima (So it’s up to how the committee decides, they can say this is offensive to us, or they can say Senator De Lima has to respond),” he said. “And on the basis of the answer in writing of Senator De Lima, the Senate will decide.”
“I will have to notify the committee and the Senate President including Senator De Lima kasi kailangan niya ng kopya upang malaman niya kung ano ang sasagutin nya,” Barbo said.
Meanwhile, Farinas said that aside from the ethics complaint and the criminal and disbarment cases De Lima is also facing, they also plan to file their own complaints.
These are a petition to cite her for indirect contempt, a criminal case for violation of Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes anyone who “shall restrain another from attending as a witness or shall induce disobedience to a summon or refusal to be sworn,” and another disbarment case.
At last Thursday’s hearing, where Dayan, who had been arrested in La Union two days earlier, appeared, his daughter was called to testify and showed an exchange of text messages with De Lima in which she purportedly tells him to go into hiding.
Earlier, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez raised the possibility of issuing a warrant of arrest against the senator if she snubs the show cause order.
Alvarez also said there was a breach of parliamentary courtesy when De Lima “interfered” with the House proceedings.
He said this could be the first time that the House would send a show cause to a member of a co-equal branch.
But De Lima’s fellow senators, including administration ally Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, have cautioned the lower chamber against attempting to sanction De Lima in violation of inter-parliamentary courtesy and co-equality.