Roque files ethics complaint vs De Lima over Bilibid drug trade

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Another complaint was lodged against Senator Leila de Lima, with Kabayan Representative Harry Roque filing an ethics complaint against her on Thursday, February 16.

Roque filed the case before the Senate ethics committee, accusing De Lima of conspiring with his party mate Representative Ron Salo to hide their supposed involvement in the narcotics trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). 

In the complaint, Roque said Salo was the chairman of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Love Foundation Incorporated when De Lima was still justice secretary. 

BuCor Love's website has already been suspended as of posting time, but Roque's complaint contained screenshots from the website. 

According to one of the screenshots, BuCor Love aims to "provide and impart to inmates who shall be released from prison appropriate technical, livelihood, management or entrepreneurial skills training that would match awaiting job placement opportunities, and lessons on viable income-generating projects inclusive of the needed capital to jump-start their own small-scale enterprise or industry; once they are reintegrated back to the mainstream of society." 

But in his complaint, Roque alleged BuCor Love had assisted high-profile NBP inmate Herbert Colanggo in conducting the latter's concerts and recording his studio album from within the prison. (READ: Herbert Colanggo: Convicted crime leader, drug lord, recording artist

Roque said it would have been "inconceivable" for Salo and De Lima to have been oblivious to the illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary, a subject of a weeks-long House probe that implicated De Lima, her former driver and alleged bagman Ronnie Dayan, and other BuCor officials.

"The triumvirate of Respondent De Lima, BuCor Love through its Chairman Rep Salo, and high-profile inmates such as Herbert Colanggo is now clear. BuCor Love enabled Herbert Colanggo to operate his illegal drug activities from within the NBP, with the blessing and protection of then Secretary of Justice Respondent De Lima, and under the criminal cover of the Foundation's many spiritual and charitable works there," said Roque.

"Respondent De Lima benefited greatly from this system – she is now a senator of the Philippines," added the lawmaker.

He then urged the Senate ethics committee to remove De Lima as senator. 

"Wherefore, premises considered, Complainant respectfully prays that the Honorable Committee sanction Respondent Senator Leila B De Lima by voting for her expulsion from the Philippine Senate and, further, recommend to the Philippine Senate the expulsion of Respondent Senator De Lima," said Roque. 

De Lima is already facing a number of other cases for her alleged involvement in illegal drugs. The senator, the fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, is expecting an arrest warrant to be served against her soon. (READ: De Lima fears being another 'EJK victim' once in prison)

Roque is also involved in a legal battle with his party mate Salo. 

The conflict between the two congressmen first began in December 2016, when Kabayan investigated Roque for asking sexually laden questions to Dayan during the House NBP probe.

Kabayan then moved to remove Roque as one of its representatives in the 17th Congress. Roque protested that the 3-person panel that investigated him was formed by Salo himself. (READ: No, Kabayan, you can't just kick out Harry Roque)

Salo filed a disbarment case against Roque on January 16, while Roque countered the attack with an indirect contempt case against Salo and his chief of staff on February 3. 

Roque also announced that Kabayan held a Special Party Congress on February 11, where it decided to remove Salo as congressman. Roque already wrote a letter to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, but the latter has yet to decide on the matter.

'I don't know Salo'

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, De Lima denied knowing Salo.

"First of all, I don't know Mr Ron Salo, except for what I read in the news. I don't recall any instance that I have ever worked or dealt with him," said De Lima.

She added that she is not aware of the conflict between Roque and Salo in Kabayan.

"I'm sorry to hear that he has been expelled from his party. Maybe if he served his party better rather than wasting his time on baseless and inane attacks against me, he wouldn't have lost his constituents," said De Lima. 

She then slammed Roque for supposedly using her name to put himself in the headlines again.

"Thirdly, if he wants to be relevant and be in the news again – which is presumably why he is dragging my name into their intra-party dispute – do not do it at my expense. I have no interest in meddling with their internal party affairs," said De Lima.

"It would speak better of his worth as a public servant, as a member of the legal profession and as a human being if he faces his problems and fights his own battles honorably, rather than joining the open season declared by the President against me," she added.

De Lima advised Roque to focus on working on "meaningful legislation rather than politicking."

"He won't find salvation by trying to score cheap brownie points from the President by attacking me," she said. 

Read the full copy of Roque's ethics complaint against De Lima below:

– Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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