Senate ethics committee to take up De Lima case Tuesday
THE Senate committee on ethics and privileges is set sit down on Tuesday to decide on whether or not to give due course to the complaint filed against Sen. Leila de Lima over her alleged links to the drug trade.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, the committee chair, said Wednesday that the seven-member body will meet to decide whether the complaint, filed by lawyer Abelardo de Jesus in August, is sufficient in form and substance.
He said the matter of jurisdiction might also be decided on the committee’s meet, its second this session.
“We will decide on Tuesday morning what are the next steps that we will be taking… We’ll try to settle everything,” Sotto told reporters.
He said the meeting will not be confidential.
The complainant has not been invited, as the committee is still going to make initial discussions on the case.
“We will act on the complaint first. We’ll inform him, we’ll decide what to do next in that particular meeting on Tuesday,” he said.
The committee had first met on Aug. 30, an organizational meeting when members were given copies of the complaint. In filing the ethics complaint, De Jesus said he had no personal knowledge of De Lima’s alleged drug links and that he had based his complaint on President Duterte’s accusations against the Senator.
In several public speeches, the President had accused De Lima of coddling drug lords and making a profit out of drug money at the national penitentiary during her time as Justice Secretary.
The New Bilibid Prison, the country’s main correctional facility, is under the purview of the Department of Justice.
During her time as justice chief, De Lima led raids in the crowded prison several times, leading to the discovery that high-profile convicts were still running the illicit trade behind bars. The crackdown also led to the bust of luxury villas, cash and other contraband.
Faced with the President’s allegations, De Lima has issued repeated denials, saying she was being pilloried for her stance against Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
De Lima, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, had earlier initiated an investigation into the spate of drug-related deaths since the President took office on July 1.
Hearings were supposed to resume this week, but she agreed to suspend the proceedings in heed of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s call for a break while Duterte is on his first overseas trip.
Sotto did not comment when asked whether he believed the case complaint would proceed.
“The last thing I would want to do is to unilaterally decide on anything in the committee on ethics. It’s a very serious and a different type of subject. It’s unlike any other committee in the Senate, where the chairman can be given full authority on everything,” Sotto told reporters
“In this case, we’re talking about the situation and the stature of a member of the Senate. So the chairman cannot unilaterally act on anything. There must be a committee discussion on any committee decision. So my opinion is immaterial at this point,” he said.
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