By Ben Rosario and MB Online
Senator Leila De Lima’s text messages advising Ronnie Dayan, her confessed lover and former driver , to hide and not to appear before the House justice committee has put her in further trouble with criminal and administrative charges that could remove her from the Senate, congressmen said Thursday, November 24.
This developed as the justice panel chaired by Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali unanimously approved to issue a “show cause” order on De Lima directing her to present a reason on why she should not be cited for contempt for her actions.
The Lower House panel also approved a motion to release Dayan from the chamber’s custody after he voluntarily testified at the reopening of the justice panel’s inquiry into the alleged drug trafficking operations at the New Bilibid Prison during De Lima’s term as justice secretary.
Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, upon the recommendation of congressmen, agreed to put Dayan under the Witness Protection Program to fully secure his person.
ABS Partylist Rep. Eugene de Vera made the “show cause” motion as he stressed that De Lima should also be given the chance to show up before the committee and air her side, “in the interest of fair play.”
The motion was unanimously adopted with De Vera urging De Lima to show respect with members of a coequal branch of the government.
Umali described De Lima’s alleged “continuing snub” as an affront to the institution of the Lower House.
“There was discourtesy in the fact that telling a witness not to appear here is something that really violates interparliamentary courtesy,” said Umali, a former party mate and fraternity brother of the lady senator.
Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro said the House leadership expects the Senate to conduct a motu propio investigation on De Lima’s action, saying that the justice panel will try to reach a decision on whether or not she will be cited in contempt.
But Leyte 3rd district Rep. Vicente Veloso, who was implicated for benefiting in the alleged drug trade in Eastern Visayas, also invoked interparliamentary courtesy in saying the senator cannot be cited in contempt for not appearing at the House, but she can still be cited in contempt for compelling Dayan not to testify at the House despite being subpoenaed.
Pangasinan 2nd district Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil, meanwhile, suggested bringing the motion to cite De Lima in contempt before the Senate ethics committee.
In his opening remarks at the reopening of the congressional inquiry into the alleged drug trafficking operations at the New Bilibid Prison, Umali chided De Lima for turning down several times invitations for her to attend the hearings and shed light into allegations of her involvement in the illegal narcotics deals.
“It shows lack of respect to a coequal chamber. Her refusal to attend the inquiry is inconsistent with the mandate given to her by the Constitution, Article 11, Section 1 which states that public office is a public trust and that all public officers must at all times be accountable to the people and this is the house of the people,” he stressed.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez described De Lima as a “serial liar” for her continued denial of allegations that she had benefited from drug money despite admissions made by alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
Alvarez noted that while there were conflicting testimonies of witnesses in the investigation of the House committee on justice on the illegal drug trade in the National Bilibid Prison, they have a common thread pointing to involvement of De Lima.
During the justice committee hearing, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II prodded lawmakers to cite De Lima in contempt for encouraging Dayan not to show up in the legislative proceedings and evade arrest.
Message from ‘TL’
Alvarez issued a warrant for Dayan’s arrest for failing to show up in the House hearings.
Arrested in La Union after a month-long police manhunt, Dayan testified before the justice committee that he followed the senator’s advise that was given through his daughter, 23-year-old Hannah Mae Dayan.
The young Dayan was presented in the hearing to confirm her father’s claim. She showed to committee members two Viber messages of De Lima that she saved in her smartphone.
Hanna Mae confirmed that when her father received the House subpoena last month, she was asked to inquire from her “Tita Lei”, referring to De Lima, on what he must do. She quickly sent the inquiry to De Lima and received a quick response.
“Pakisabi sa kanya magtago na lang muna sya. Kagagawan yan nila Speaker Alvarez at dikta ni Digong. Pagpipiyestahan lang siya at kaming dalawa kapaga nag-appear sya sa hearing na yan,” the Viber message coming from De Lima’s assigned phone number showed.
Asked by Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas on whether there was another message from De Lima, Dayan’s daughter said that on the same date, October 1 at about 6:15 pm, responded to her query whether her father will be arrested if he fails to show up in the House hearing.
“Hindi ba nagtatago naman sya?” De Lima allegedly responded, also in a text message.
More legal dilemmas
Reacting to the information given by the two witnesses, lawyer Ferinand Topacio of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said De Lima should be held liable for obstructing proceedings of the Lower House.
While Topacio doubted that De Lima could be held criminally liable, she may, however,be dismissed as a lawyer.
Topacio said the new information and De Lima’s romantic relationship with Dayan, a married man, may be included as grounds for her disbarment.
The VACC has put up a P1 million reward for information leading to arrest of Dayan, who was ordered arrested for failing to show up in the justice committee hearing despite several invitations, the last one, being a subpoena.
Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, committee vice chairman, said the justice committee may take action on De Lima for giving the wrong advise to Dayan.
On the other hand, Fariñas described De Lima’s advise as a “contemptuous act “ of interfering in the House proceedings.
Tags: contempt, De Lima under contempt threat for preventing Dayan’s testimony, House Committee on Justice, interparliamentary courtesy, Leila de Lima, Manila Bulletin, New Bilibid Prison, Philippine news, Ronnie Dayan, show cause order