De Lima charged for ‘disobedience’ to House
The government filed a criminal case in court on Wednesday against a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, accusing her of trying to sabotage a congressional investigation of her alleged involvement in the drug trade.
The justice department’s case against its former head, Sen. Leila de Lima, says she deliberately skipped the House of Representatives inquiry and told her ex-driver and alleged bagman to go into hiding and ignore a legislative summons.
In a statement, De Lima clarified that the National Prosecution Service (NPS) found probable cause to charge her with violation of Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code (disobedience to summons issued by the national assembly, its committees or subcommittees, etc.), not obstruction of justice as mentioned in some reports.
“I am not aware if there is such a separate charge, but, in any case, there would be no basis for it because the House inquiry is not a criminal proceeding,” De Lima said in a statement.
She said her legal team was “reviewing all options available to us—but with the disadvantage of not really knowing what the allegations and evidence against me are.”
“Nevertheless, we will act with dispatch to answer the charge that this administration has desperately hurled against me in order to save the House leadership from embarrassment for failing to link me to the drug trade in New Bilibid Prison, and for shaming itself by engaging in rumor-mongering, slut-shaming and voyeurism,” she said.
De Lima is among only a few high-profile domestic critics of Mr. Duterte’s campaign against drugs, which has killed about 6,000 people, roughly a third in police operations. The other deaths are classified as under investigation, many believed to be the work of vigilantes.
Mr. Duterte’s allies in Congress said De Lima had shown disrespect for the inquiry. The criminal case is built around breaches of an article of the law on legislative summonses.
In a separate statement on Wednesday, De Lima said the criminal charges would have no impact on her, or change the fact that people were dying as part of Mr. Duterte’s war.
“It’s saddening and frightening that even high-ranking public figures have swallowed hook, line and sinker the fantasy that the Duterte administration has been weaving: that [one] person was single-handedly responsible for the proliferation of drugs in our country,” she said, referring to the accusations against her that she is a drug lord.
De Lima had led a Senate investigation into suspected extrajudicial killings during Mr. Duterte’s drugs crackdown and a similarly bloody campaign he oversaw in Davao City when he was mayor.
But she was ousted by his allies as head of that investigation and just days later came under investigation herself in a House inquiry in which witnesses testified to her having a pivotal role in the narcotics trade.
De Lima has denied the accusations and filed a case in the Supreme Court to try to muzzle Mr. Duterte and stop him from disparaging her in public and making salacious allegations about her private life. —REPORTS FROM CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO AND THE WIRES