Congressmen: De Lima's text message could be basis for dismissal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Senator Leila De Lima's text message advising her alleged bagman Ronnie Dayan to go into hiding might cost her her job — or at least, that's the opinion of some congressmen.

House Justice Committee Senior Vice Chairperson Vincente "Ching" Veloso cited Article 6, Section 16, of the Constitution, which enables the body to "punish its Members for disorderly behavior."

"In my view, that is disorderly behavior," Veloso told "The Source" on Friday. "But that is discretionary on the part of the Senate to either suspend her... or dismiss her."

Dayan told congressmen during the House Committee on Justice hearing on Thursday that De Lima had told him to go in hiding despite the summons to the House hearing. Dayan's daughter Hannah Mae also showed the committee supposed text messages from De Lima advising him to boycott the probe.

The House Committee on Justice was conducting an inquiry into allegations on De Lima's supposed involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison. The committee had summoned Dayan as a witness in September, but he was nowhere to be found. The committee issued a subpoena against Dayan on October 1 — but Dayan still ignored it.

Police finally arrested Dayan on Tuesday, November 22, in La Union, and eventually brought him to the House committee hearing.

Ako Bicol Party-list Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr., agreed with Veloso, saying that De Lima's instruction to Dayan was "tantamount to a refusal to obey a lawful order of the (House)."

However, he likewise said that "the jurisdiction doesn't belong to us, it belongs to the Senate."

According to the Constitution, the concurrence of two-thirds of the members is necessary to decide on suspension or expulsion.

 

However, Senate President Koko Pimentel dismissed a call by Rep. Harry Roque from the House to unseat De Lima on Thursday.

"Kung sila nga eh hindi pa naka-mini trial [If they haven't had a mini-trial] about it then how come they want the Senate to already act as if there's already a final determination of the actual facts?" said Pimentel.

Dayan, De Lima's former driver and bodyguard, claimed to have received money from self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa — supposedly to help fund the senatorial campaign of De Lima, who was Justice Secretary at the time.

De Lima has consistently denied this allegation.

Both Dayan and De Lima already admitted that they had a seven-year romantic relationship, despite Dayan being married.

Related: 'De Lima urged me to skip probe, hide' – Dayan

Inconsistencies

Dayan's much-awaited testimony had notable inconsistencies with that of Espinosa.

The latter is a key witness in the Senate probe on the killing of his father, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa. He claimed to have handed money to Dayan — purportedly as funding for De Lima's senatorial campaign.

However the dates and the number of times they met for the money deliveries — as they mentioned in their testimonies, do not match.

Related: Dayan and Espinosa give conflicting details in testimonies

Garbin believes that these "glaring inconsistencies" on material points will further complicate the case.

"How can we craft legislation when in the first place both of them are not saying the whole truth?" said Garbin.

He added that another consideration of Congress was to "help" the Department of Justice (DOJ) with details on investigation.

"(Espinosa and Dayan) were afforded a provisional coverage of witness programs... how can you present two principal witnesses with conflicting testimonies?" added Garbin.

 

However, Veloso says that Dayan's testimony is "enough" and inconsistencies do not matter in aid of lawmaking and establishing public officer accountability.

"Our function is only to craft legislation, but at the end of the day, problema na ng DOJ iyon [that's the DOJ's problem]," said Veloso.

Veloso, was also tagged in the slain mayor's affidavits as a drug protector, which he repeatedly denied.

Related: 'Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa's affidavits crafted by police' – Leyte congressman

Congress conduct

Congressmen came under fire on social media for delving more into Dayan and De Lima's affair during the conduct of the hearing. Many netizens slammed the lawmakers' line of questioning as misogynistic and more for salacious indulgence — rather than focusing on the drug allegations against De Lima.

 

Garbin and Veloso maintained that they could not control their peers.

"Hindi namin mapigilan kahapon eh. I browsed the comments... talagang nagulpi yung House," said Garbin. "Instead na maging maganda ang kalabasan... sa social media, bugbog na bugbog."

[Translation: We couldn't stop them yesterday. I browsed the comments... the House got hit hard. Instead of positive results... We were beaten up on social media.]

"I thought na makukuha ng mga kasama natin (na) huwag na tayong makialam sa private life ni Sen. De Lima," added Veloso.

[Translation: I thought that our companions would understand that we shouldn't bother about Sen. De Lima's private life anymore.]

"If you watch my direct cross-examination, I never delved into the love affair... because I believe that those matters are not relevant to the... investigations in the committee," said Garbin.

He added that Veloso had "admonished" the other committee members when he cried "irrelevant" at some of their questions.

Although he called on his peers to be "objective," Garbin said that he will not comment further because "baka magalit sa amin yung colleagues sa House [other colleagues at the House might get mad at us]."

Both solons say that this will be the last of the House hearings on the drug trade in New Bilibid Prison.