Senate ethics panel: 'Difficult' for us to decide on complaint

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate committee on ethics and privileges on Tuesday, August 30, formally convened to inform its members about the complaint filed against Senator Leila De Lima.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, committee chairman, admitted that it would be a “difficult decision” for the panel.

Before deciding on the merits of the case, Sotto said the committee would have to determine if it has jurisdiction over the complaint and whether or not it has form and substance.

“'Di madali sa amin na decision talaga (This is really a difficult decision for us). Besides, the decision earlier by the committee, if ever we decide on anything that will be related to the complaint, we will make sure all 7 members are present,” Sotto told reporters after the committee’s organizational meeting.

Aside from Sotto, the other members of the committee are Senators Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan, Grace Poe, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Escudero, and Loren Legarda. Sotto said Senator Manny Pacquiao might replace Legarda.

“We will decide if it’s within form and substance and what the committee would decide to do with it after the next meeting,” Sotto said.

He, however, said there is no definite timetable yet, as each senator-member has to study the case first.

“Mahirap sabihin timetable; walang timetable. Tingnan muna natin ano sense nila. Kasi homework ng mga senador yan. Uuwi nila ang complaint, pag-aaralan nila. Bigyan ko sila kopya ng rules, pagaaralan din nila, then we meet again and decide,” Sotto said.

(It's hard to say the timetable; there is no timetable. Let's see first what they think of it. It's the senators' homework. They will take home the complaint and study it. I will give them a copy of the rules, they will also study it and then we meet again and decide.)

Under the rules, Sotto said the Senate has jurisdiction on acts committed during the incumbency of a senator and on continuing acts that may have started before the term.

The committee is also set to hire a general counsel, as allowed by the rules of the Senate, to “facilitate” the committee processes and decisions.

“But the need for a general counsel is to facilitate the work for the senators or memebers of the committee, so we can easily decide on the jurisdiction and what to do with it and whether to pursue or dismiss whatever we decide on. We will decide later on if we conduct executive sessions or public hearings,” Sotto said.

Lawyer Abelardo De Jesus filed the complaint against the neophyte senator over her alleged links to drugs.

De Jesus earlier said in a radio interview that the ethics committee is the best venue for De Lima to defend herself from allegations made by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.

Harassment

While she has not yet seen the complaint, De Lima said it is only part of the administration’s harassment of her. She maintained she would not back down despite the attacks.

“So I have not seen that complaint yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s just again one of those harassment tactics that’s being hurled against me. I’m being subjected to a lot of these harassment tactics,” De Lima told reporters.

“They’re trying to break my spirit but they will never succeed. That will not happen, trying to break my spirit. Marami ho silang ginagawang harassment ngayon. 'Yung iba, hindi ko pa ho sinasabi sa inyo kasi ayaw ko na muna po. Ayaw ko na muna po. Tignan natin kung hanggang saang punto nila gagawin ang mga puwede nilang gawin sa akin," De Lima said. 

(They are doing many forms of harassment now. The others, I am not yet telling you because I just want this to stop. Let's see until when they will do this to me.) 

Sotto, for his part, said the committee would keep details “confidential” to avoid “premature publicity.”

“We decided to keep it confidential because it might be premature publicity so therefore in fairness to everyone, to all concerned, we’d rather that we keep it confidential,” he said. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.

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