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Speaker steps up offensive on de Lima

Sen. Leila de Lima gestures in an earlier Senate hearing. INTERAKSYON FILE PHOTO
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATE - 5:30 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez remained unrelenting in his attacks on Senator Leila de Lima, whom he earlier accused of lying about her involvement in the illegal drug trade during her past stint as justice secretary.

He also defended the demeanor of his colleagues at the House of Representatives and their line of questioning in last week's congressional inquiry delving into the romantic relationship between De Lima and her former aide, Ronnie Dayan.

Dayan had appeared before the inquiry as witness adverse to the senator.

In a news conference, Alvarez raised the possibility of the House of Representatives issuing a warrant of arrest against the senator if she snubs an order for her to explain allegations against her.

The House leader was referring to text messages shared by Dayan's daughter, Hannah Mae, which indicated that De Lima advised her former bodyguard against appearing before the congressional inquiry.

Breach of parliamentary courtesy
"We should consider that there was a breach of parliamentary courtesy for interfering with the proceedings in the House. Thus, it's the institution that was insulted," he said.

The committee on justice, which conducted the inquiry on the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison, has yet to decide whether or not to issue the show cause order to De Lima.

If it reaches his office, Alvarez said, he would approve any recommendation to arrest the senator.

Warrant of arrest
Dayan was issued a warrant of arrest and yielded to arresting law enforcers in La Union Province last week, after more than a month in hiding.

When he testified before the House hearing on Thursday, he said De Lima instructed him to collect money from alleged Leyte drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.

Alvarez said this would be first time that the House issues a show cause order to a senator.

"No senator has done such a thing: Advise a witness to go hide," he said in Filipino.

No collision course
Asked if the action of the House against De Lima could put the two chamber in a collision course, the Speaker said, "I don't think so, this is a small matter."

In a separate news conference, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said that, aside from the show cause order to be issued by the justice committee, the leadership of the House is contemplating a move to file a disbarment case against her before the Supreme Court; a contempt case before the Regional Trial Court; and an ethics complaint before the Senate.

The cases to be filed will cite De Lima's advise to Dayan not to attend the House inquiry, which Fariñas said was tantamount to obstruction of justice.

"We will file a violation of the lawyers' canon, it's an administrative case, it's up to the Supreme Court if it will disbar her, impose a fine or suspend her," Fariñas said.

"She's a member of the bar, she should not have advised a person to be a fugitive or go in hiding," he added.

Fariñas took exception to adverse reactions by some senators to the way the congressmen "feasted" on the romantic ties between De Lima and Dayan on Thursday's hearing.

"Inter-chamber courtesy dictates that we don't comment on what they're doing, otherwise kami ang magbabangayan (we would be at loggerheads). Pero sila ngayon pinupuna kami rito, akala mga supervisor (They're the ones criticizing us like supervisors). Why do they teach us how to conduct our business?" he said.

Alvarez said it was important to show De Lima's true character to justify allegations that she was receiving drug money.

"Here is a woman who is pretending ... to be clean, [pretending to be] righteous, a graft-buster, a crime-buster ... And then, this. Now, how do you demolish her credibility? You show the entirety of her character," he said Monday in a radio interview, partly in Filipino.

Money from drug lords
Alvarez said De Lima used her subordinates during the time she was secretary of justice to collect money from drug lords, alluding to her former aides, Dayan and Jonel Sanchez.

"Gusto nating patunayan na itong taong ito ay talagang nagsisinungaling. Itong taong ito ay isang serial liar.  Kailangan iprisinta mo sa taong bayan iyong kabuuan ng kanyang personalidad, kung anong klaseng tao siya (We want to prove this person is lying. She is a serial liar. We've to show to people her entire personality, what kind of person she is)," he said.

If there were victims in this case, he said, it was Dayan's wife and the subordinates of De Lima, who were Dayan and Sanchez.

"Iyong paggamit sa subordinate mo, sexual harassment iyun. Bakit walang nagpa-file ng sexual harassment case sa kanya (De Lima)?" Alvarez asked.

To reactions that some congressmen went overboard and resorted to sexist remarks and what women's groups rued as "slut-shaming", Alvarez conceded that, "Medyo may konting hindi tama doon. Syempre, unawain din natin na doon sa sitwasyon na iyon, tao rin naman ang mga congressman, minsan nakakalimot [There was something amiss there. But let's also understand the situation of our congressmen; they're also humans and sometimes forget]," he said.

The inquiry was called to look into the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison. Earlier, high profile inmates testified that Dayan received money from them in behalf of De Lima, who was then Justice Secretary.

Dayan denied conveying money from the inmates, but said that he collected cash from alleged Leyte drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and gave it to De Lima.

Magdalo partylist Rep. Gary Alejano said it was "unfortunate" that the hearing focused on the personal relationship of De Lima and Dayan, "to the point of slut-shaming (De Lima)."

"Neglected was the fact that the hearing was about the drug trade in Bilibid.  Dayan's testimony was full of inconsistencies especially when compared to Kerwin's [Espinosa], this was because of the bad script," Alejano added.