De Lima says drug charges are all lies
While there are “snippets of truth” in the accusations President Duterte hurled at her on Wednesday, the charge that she is on the take is “an absolute lie” and “completely false,” Sen. Leila de Lima said yesterday.
De Lima said she had repeatedly denied in the past allegations that she was coddling drug lords held at New Bilibid Prison and getting campaign funds from them, which was why she did not mention these when she faced reporters on Thursday to respond to the President’s attack.
But De Lima said she was repudiating those claims once more, after Mr. Duterte brought them up.
Mr. Duterte, speaking at the 115th anniversary celebration of the Philippine National Police at Camp Crame in Quezon City on Wednesday, said De Lima’s driver, who was also her “lover,” collected money for her from the drug lords during the campaign.
He claimed that she built a house for her lover, and that the money she used to build it came from drugs.
“Some of it is true. But most of those are exaggerations, distortions and lies. And foremost of the lies is the statement that someone was collecting for me from Bilibid,” De Lima told reporters at the Senate.
“That is an absolute lie,” she added.
Which charges are true?
De Lima did not say which of the allegations were true, but said she would decide if she would disclose these in a future press conference.
The junior senator, who had served as justice secretary and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair, said she had always been faithful to her oath as a public servant.
“And I don’t intend to ever betray my oath as a public servant, especially now that I have a mandate from the people,” she said.
As for the house in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan province, that she allegedly built for her driver, Ronnie Palisoc Dayan, De Lima said she did not own the property.
The two-story house in Barangay Galarin stands on a 2,482-square-meter lot titled to Dayan’s sister, Elmita Torreta, according to municipal records.
The lot and the house have a combined value of P279,784, as shown in Torreta’s tax declaration, municipal assessor Merle Moreno said.
Torreta lives nearby, but she was not at home when the Inquirer visited the place yesterday.
The orange house located about 100 meters from Torreta’s property is in Dayan’s name, according to municipal records.
It sits on a property owned by Isidro Palisoc, possibly a relative of Dayan.
The two houses appeared to have been abandoned. Neighbors just shook their heads when the Inquirer asked them if they knew the whereabouts of the occupants.
Inquiry into killings
Mr. Duterte’s attack on De Lima is believed to have been provoked by her calling an inquiry into the spate of drug killings across the country that followed the launch of a crackdown on the narcotics trade after Mr. Duterte took office on June 30.
As of Aug. 15, more than 1,500 drug suspects have been killed, 665 of them in police operations and 889 in vigilante attacks.
After winning the presidential election in May, Mr. Duterte, who promised to kill tens of thousands of criminals during the campaign, warned Congress not to investigate his anticrime campaign or there would be a clash between him and legislators.
He repeatedly urged police and armed citizens to kill drug suspects, promising police protection from prosecution and ordinary citizens medals for killing criminals who would resist arrest.
Despite sniping by the President, De Lima, who heads the committee on justice and human rights, called the inquiry, setting the first hearing for Monday, with the PNP chief, Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who talks tough like Mr. Duterte, among the resource persons.
But the animosity between De Lima and Mr. Duterte dates back to 2009, when the CHR, which she headed at the time, investigated alleged vigilante killings in Davao City, where he was mayor and linked to so-called death squads believed to be behind the summary executions of criminals in the city.
De Lima wrapped up the investigation in 2010, but did not announce the CHR’s findings, as it was an election year. She was appointed justice secretary after the election.
In 2012, the CHR, then headed by Loretta Ann Rosales, announced its findings, faulting Davao officials for failing to investigate the killings and asking the Office of the Ombudsman to look into Mr. Duterte’s administrative and criminal liability for taking no action and tolerating rights abuses in his city.
No charges were brought against Mr. Duterte, though.
Yesterday, Rosales came to De Lima’s defense, reminding Mr. Duterte of his pledge to abide by the rule of law.
“He attacked somebody from a different branch of government and he did it without due process. That was foul, malicious. That was below the belt,” Rosales said in an interview with the Inquirer.
She said criticism of high government officials should be based on performance and follow due process.
Investigating De Lima’s alleged links to the narcotics trade is not Mr. Duterte’s job, she said.
“That is not his role as President,” she said, adding that the job belongs to investigators, who should determine whether there is probable cause to investigate the senator.
“And that has to go through prosecution, that has to go through trial,” she said. “It is not for the President to conclude without investigation, without trial.”
Rosales reminded Mr. Duterte that he promised to abide by the rule of law in his inaugural speech.
“If he has issues against her, there is due process,” she said. “But what he has done [is a breach of his promise].”
Rosales also defended the inquiry called by De Lima, saying the human rights law should be applied not only to the cases of people like Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., who is accused of involvement in the drug trade but is back at work after surrendering to the police, but also to the cases of people like Michael Siaron, a pedicab driver who used drugs and was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men in Pasay City last month.
“President Duterte should realize that investigating summary killings is really looking at the rights of the summarily executed who did not go through due process. He should be properly advised about human rights being indivisible, interdependent, universal and interrelated,” she said.
‘Personal, sexist’ attacks
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said Mr. Duterte went too far with his “personal and sexist” attacks on De Lima.
“Personal attacks muddle investigation and steer people further away from truth and justice. Resorting to sexist attack is likewise wrong and unacceptable,” De Jesus said in a statement issued yesterday. With reports from Gil Cabacungan and Vince F. Nonato; Inquirer Research; and Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon/TVJ
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