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MARIE YUVIENCO | De Lima and Dayan: Worst case scenarios
The online news portal of TV5

Had Leila de Lima and her former driver Ronnie Dayan any inkling that their secret love, which sparked in 2007, would land them in hot water nine years on, I think they would have thought twice.

Intensity 5 relationships may sound all-consuming, but when one of the parties is a bar topnotcher and a graduate of the law school that produced Rody Duterte, one can expect a certain measure of circumspection plus self-control that should preempt such a relationship. But you know, the heart has its reasons which reason does not know.

Thus, how vexing it must be for Senator de Lima to watch her former lover betray her and humiliate her by tattling on live television. She only has herself to blame, however. For the moment, let’s remove Ronnie Dayan’s existing marriage from the equation (though the relationship, technically, is not adulterous in the Revised Penal Code-sense, being that the senator is a single lady, her marriage having been annulled, it remains adulterous in the Biblical sense because the man is legally wedded to another woman), but still, their affair isn’t fully square. 

She was his boss, and if that relationship had taken place in a corporate setting and she was the secretary and he the boss, that liaison would have been objectionable on so many levels. His behavior would have been labeled as predatory and the consequences would have been dire. As it is, just because she is the woman does not change the fact that she was in the position of power when the affair began. No way should standards change simply because of her gender.

Logically then, she should not be going around giving interviews ascribing her affair with Dayan as the fruit of the “frailties of a woman.” Feminism has done so much to advance the cause of equality of women and men that it is unbecoming for a female senator to hark back to frayed stereotypes of women being weak. She ought to know better than to revise the narrative because, honestly, whatever kettle of fish she is in now is the result of her poor decision-making in her public, and as it turns out, in her private life. As a government official, there really is no separating the two.

Refusing to directly address the accusations against her, therefore, is not working in her favor. Initially, she tried to find dignity in silence, but when Ronnie Dayan began selling her out, it quickly became obvious that the problem had to be managed better. 

This is probably why she finally decided to come clean, but realistically, she had no other choice. 

Deny the affair? That would not have worked. Denial is seen as one of the weakest of defenses and it absolutely cannot prevail in the face of positive assertions of a party -- as a lawyer, the senator knows that. On the assumption that the best offense is a star-crossed defense, she is now playing the “woman in love” card to see if it will go down better.

No harm in trying

When Dan White was tried for the murder of George Moscone, a liberal-leaning mayor of San Francisco, and Harvey Milk who, when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, became the first openly gay public official of any major city in the United States, he proferred the bizarre excuse that he had eaten too many high-sugar foods the day he shot Milk dead. 

His claim would forever be known as the “Twinkie defense.” The jury bought it:  instead of finding White guilty of double murder, it convicted him of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced him to five years in prison. So who knows what might or might not work?

Will the Supreme Court buy Senator de Lima’s lovelorn defense should an administrative case for disbarment be filed against her, on the ground that she had advised Dayan to snub a congressional subpoena? Legal ethics impose high moral standards -- sometimes too high, I think -- on lawyers, and Philippine jurisprudence is replete with cases involving a great many who have been suspended, at least, or disbarred, at worst, for loving wrongly. 

Not only is de Lima the other woman, she had a run-in with the Court when she defied a TRO it had issued restraining her from implementing a watch-list order against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband. A complaint for disbarment just might represent an opportunity for payback, though the Court has to be careful to avoid giving that impression.

Will the Ombudsman decline to prosecute the senator for falling for the wrong guy? Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and de Lima are both remnants of the Aquino regime and that might be a factor.

The Ombudsman has a fixed term but she is an impeachable official, and if she declines to indict de Lima for obstruction of justice, she might become a target of the Duterte administration, and we have seen how a determined president can destroy, if he so wishes, an Ombudsman like Merceditas Gutierrez and a Chief Justice like Renato Corona if goaded enough. Is Ombudsman Morales willing to risk her own career to protect a confessed mistress?

Finally, will the Senate discipline one of its own for refusing to heed the House’s call for her to testify? In simpler times the body protects its own, but recall that de Lima was unceremoniously stripped of her chairmanship of the Justice committee when the charges against her became increasingly serious. A less starry-eyed chamber will likely throw the contents of a chamber pot at any member relying on such a sentimental defense.