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Senate committee junks ethics cases vs. de Lima

Updated

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate Committee on Ethics has junked the remaining ethics cases filed against detained Senator Leila de Lima, including those filed by House representatives, for supposedly preventing her former aide from attending a congressional investigation on the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison in 2016.

Sen. Leila de Lima (PRIB Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/2 August 2016/Manila Bulletin)

Sen. Leila de Lima (PRIB Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/ /Manila Bulletin File Photo)

Members of the Senate Ethics Committee, led by its chair Senator Vicente Sotto III, voted to dismiss the complaints by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, and other congressmen against de Lima for lack of jurisdiction.

The committee also rejected the complaints from former representative and now Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, and lawyer Abelardo de Jesus.

The complainants accused De Lima of instructing her former aide and alleged bagman Ronnie Dayan to not attend the House inquiry into the illegal drug trade at the NBP.

They also charged with gross misconduct over her alleged illicit affair with Dayan.

The senators, however, cited the Senate’s lack of jurisdiction over the charges because the alleged acts were committed before de Lima became senator.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon made the motion to dismiss the complaint, which was agreed to by Senators. Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan and Riza Hontiveros.

Lacson, in explaining his support of the motion, said de Lima “has not violated any Senate rule, or any related function of a senator”.

Honasan, meanwhile, said he voted for the cases of dismissal “in spirit of humanity”, considering that de Lima is already facing criminal charges and is now detained. Hontiveros echoed the sentiment, saying de Lima is “living a very difficult situation” due to her detention.

Honasan said the dismissal would also protect the Senate and its members “from abuse of discretion and authority”.

Drilon, for his part, said that the pending drug charges against de Lima be influenced should the Senate rule in favor of the complainants.

In approving the dismissal of the ethics complaints, Sotto, however, maintained that they have no intention of protecting de Lima’s alleged mistakes and others may file new ethics cases against her.

The ethics committee last year dismissed two ethics cases — by De Jesus and a certain Ronillo Pulmano — for the same grounds.

Faeldon charge rejected

The ethics body, in the same meeting, dismissed the ethics cases against Lacson and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

The charges stemmed from the complaint of former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon last year for the supposed “unethical, unparliamentary and improper conduct” of the two senators amid the investigation on the smuggling of the P6.4-billion shabu in the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

In less than five minutes, the committee members unanimously agreed to junk Faeldon’s complaint. Lacson inhibited himself from voting on the case.

Faeldon, filed on September 18 the ethics complaint against Lacson for accusing him of receiving P100 million purportedly as “welcome gift” when he assumed his position at the BOC. Days later, he filed a separate complaint against Trillanes, who claimed that he was “at the heart” of the shabu controversy.

The Senate ethics committee had earlier decided to hold in abeyance Faeldon’s complaint, citing his refusal to appear in the investigation being conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

Faeldon, now an Office of Civil Defense deputy administrator, remains detained at the Pasay City Jail after he was cited for contempt for refusing to attend the Senate probe.

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