MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III criticized the House of Representatives for telling the Senate what to do regarding embattled Senator Leila de Lima, the subject of a show-cause order from a congressional committee investigating the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison.
“You know, for a member of the House to tell the Senate to do something, ibalik ko siguro sa kanila (let me throw it back to them). Do your thing first before you ask us to do something,” Pimentel said.
Citing the Constitution, Pimentel said only the Senate could punish its members.
He said that in the case of De Lima, while it is possible that she may be charged for indirect contempt for allegedly trying to stop her former bodyguard, Ronnie Dayan, from testifying at the House probe, this should first be heard and proven in a "mini-trial" at the House.
"So if they have not conducted a mini-trial yet, how come they want the Senate to act as if there’s a final determination of actual facts?” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
Pimentel said the House should not get so “excited” that it wants the Senate to immediately act on it without first probing the matter.
“Very premature. Let’s not be too excited. Let the House do what it has to do. Observe procedure, process, then give the Senate official result of the findings,” he said.
Pimentel was responding to the call of Kabayan Representative Harry Roque for the Senate to remove De Lima as a sitting senator, in view of Dayan's allegation.
“If this lady senator will not voluntarily resign from her post after this revelation, I hope our colleagues in the Senate will protect the integrity of Congress of the Philippines,” Roque said during the House hearing on Thursday.
Another way for the issue to reach the Senate, Pimentel said, is through an ethics complaint against De Lima, who is already facing two complaints over drug charges against her.
Pimentel said the Senate would have jurisdiction over it, as the alleged act happened during De Lima’s term as senator. The chamber, however, could not act on it unless there is a case filed.
“Yes, but there is no complaint. I am not even member of the ethics committee but let them answer that question. When the complaint comes, we have to answer – do we have jurisdiction or not? Is the act grave enough to merit investigation. After investigation, did she really commit the act?” Pimentel said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, vice chairman of the committee, shared the same sentiment.
If the House committee on justice would file an ethics complaint against De Lima for obstruction of justice, Lacson said the committee has the authority to look into the matter.
“I think the Senate committee on ethics can acquire jurisdiction since it was allegedly committed during her incumbency as senator,” Lacson said in a text message.
Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III refused to comment on the issue out of propriety, as he is the chair of the ethics panel.
With the series of hearings pinning the blame on De Lima and even publicizing personal details of her love life, the matter of inter-parliamentary courtesy was put to question. (READ: Lawmakers feast on De Lima-Dayan love affair)
Pimentel said the inter-parliamentary courtesy is only an unspoken rule, as neither the Constitution nor any law explicitly mandates this arrangement between the two chambers of Congress.
Despite this, Pimentel had words of caution to their fellow lawmakers in the House: “If they want to respect it, well and good. If not, 'wag sila magtampo (they shouldn't hold it against us) if it’s the other way around.”
It should be recalled that during the Senate investigation into the pork barrel scam that implicated several congressmen, none of them were invited to testify at the hearings out of inter-parliamentary courtesy.
In the wake of the continued accusations against De Lima, Pimentel expressed confidence that the Senate’s credibility remained intact and unaffected by controversies.
Any action or accusation against a sitting senator, he said, is not reflective of the whole institution.
“No, there are 24 senators, we have our own lives. We have our own actions. Some probably beat a red light or crossed the platform with no pedestrian crossing. Kasalanan ba ng Senado 'yan? Hindi (Is that the Senate's fault? No),” Pimentel said. – Rappler.com