Duterte dinner with senators ‘light,’ but De Lima, drug war discussed
Following his own claim of alleged destabilization plot against his administration, President Rodrigo Duterte met with 15 senators Tuesday night and justified the resumption of his war on drugs and the charges filed against Senator Leila de Lima.
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, who posted in social media a photo of their dinner with the President, initially denied De Lima was discussed during the meeting, saying it was purely “socials” and a “very light mood.”
“He (Duterte) was just justifying, he was also saying the reasons why “Oplan Tokhang” or the “Oplan Double barrel” has to resume…” Ejercito told reporters on Wednesday.
Asked if De Lima was mentioned, he said: “Senator de Lima? Parang hindi nga rin nabanggit e. Hindi nabanggit, to be fair. ‘Yung mga kasama namin sa minority wala namang nabanggit ang Presidente.”
(Senator de Lima? I don’t remember her being mentioned. She was not mentioned, to be fair. The President also did not mention our colleagues in the minority.)
“Ang nasabi lang n’yang pinaka-seryosong topic was again ‘yung war against drugs (The most serious topic he touched on was the war against drugs),” Ejercito added.
But the senator later admitted that de Lima was mentioned in passing while the President was talking about the war on drugs.
“Parang napakaikli e…Pabiro siguro, konti. Malayo ako e (It was just in passing. He was perhaps joking a little. I was seated far from him),” he said.
“He was just saying na ‘yung mga ebidensya against her parang international intelligence supplied, it’s not only the local na nag-supply ng intel against De lima. Hanggang dun lang. Parang ‘yun lang ang nalaala ko.”
(He just said that the evidence against her were supplied by international intelligence, not just the local agencies. That’s how far he went. That’s the only thing I can remember.)
“Ini-explain nya na hindi ito trumped up charges, there are bases for filing the charges kasi ang intel nga n’ya e international intelligence reports,” Ejercito said.
(He explained that these were not trumped up charges as there are bases for filing the charges because the intel came from international reports.)
The senator said they did not ask more serious questions to the President as they did not want to spoil the gathering.
Aside from Ejercito, the 14 others who were present in the dinner were Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Manny Pacquiao, Richard Gordon, Joel Villanueva, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sonny Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe.
Notably absent were the six members of the Senate opposition bloc—Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes IV and de Lima, who has been detained at Camp Crame since February 20 over drug charges.
Three members of the majority group —Senators Panfilo Lacson, Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Gringo Honasan were also absent. IDL