House leaders mull contempt, ethics cases vs. De Lima

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Monday said he wants Senator Leila De Lima arrested if she refuses to answer the show-cause order against her.

"First time din ito nangyari na merong senator na nakialam sa proceedings ng House. Hindi pa nangyayari iyon. Wala pang senador na nag-advise doon sa witness ng House of Representatives para magtago," said Alvarez.

"Merong breach of parliamentary courtesy na ginawa itong si Senator De Lima for interfering in the proceedings in the House. Ang nainsulto dito ang institution itself," he added.

(Translation: First time for this to happen. That a senator interfered with the procedings of the House. That has never happened before. No senator ever advised a witness of the House of Representatives to go into hiding.)

(Senator De Lima committed a breach of parliamentary courtesy for interfering in the proceedings in the House. The institution itself was insulted.)

The House of Representatives Justice Committee will issue the order, asking De Lima to explain why she shouldn't be cited in contempt.

Read: Aguirre: De Lima case 'strong' even without Dayan, Espinosa testimonies

In his testimony during the last hearing of the House Committee on Justice, witness Ronnie Dayan — De Lima's former driver-bodyguard — testified that he was instructed by De Lima to ignore a subpoena from the committee.

Dayan had testified in the House probe on Thursday, two days after he was arrested in La Union. Before his arrest, Dayan had been hiding from authorities and ignoring summons from the House committee.

Dayan allegedly worked as De Lima's bagman and supposedly collected money from drug lords to fund her senatorial campaign.

In his testimony, Dayan told lawmakers that De Lima sent a text message to his daughter Hannah Mae. In that message, De Lima supposedly told Dayan not to attend the House probe into the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison.

Leila-de-Lima-text_CNNPH.png Ronnie Dayan's daughter, Hannah Mae, showed the supposed text message from Sen. Leila de Lima asking Dayan to go into hiding and skip the House hearings.  

In her alleged text message, De Lima told Dayan that the probe was orchestrated by Alvarez and President Rodrigo Duterte. The senator said she and Dayan would be humiliated if he attended the inquiry.

Alvarez denied De Lima's accusation that the House investigation is meant to destroy her reputation.

For her part, De Lima said she will not honor the House's show-cause order, which she has yet to receive.

Read: De Lima: Respect my privacy

Series of complaints

House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas, meanwhile, explained that Congress has the power to penalize acts of contempt.

Apart from this, Congress may also file a criminal complaint for contempt against De Lima before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

Fariñas said they are also looking at filing a case against De Lima before the Supreme Court for violating the Rules of Court, when she asked Dayan to neglect the subpoena. He said could lead to De Lima's disbarment as a lawyer.

Read: Group wants De Lima disbarred

"Magfa-file na lang kami ng criminal complaint for contempt before the RTC. Yung RTC will now issue an order to her to answer that case for contempt.  Another thing that we can do is file a case before the Supreme Court. Dahil member of the bar siya, officer of the court yan, officer of the court yan, officer din samin, she should not advise a person to be a fugitive of justice or to go in hiding," said Fariñas.

(We will file a criminal complaint for contempt before the RTC. The RTC will now issue an order to her to answer that case for contempt.  Another thing that we can do is file a case before the Supreme Court. Because she's a member of the bar, she's an officer of the court. Ours is also an officer of the court. She should not advise a person to be a fugitive of justice or to go in hiding.)

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

Fariñas also said they may also file a complaint for disorderly behavior against the De Lima before the Senate Ethics committee.

He added that House Committee on Justice chairman Reynaldo Umali, House Speaker Alvarez, or he himself, may serve as the complainant in the complaints or cases to be filed.

"We will file a complaint for against her in the (Senate) Ethics committee for disorderly behavior. Iyon, sila lang ang pwede magdesisyon doon. Kung sususpendihin siya or tatanggalin siya ng senador, sila lang pwede mag-decide doon."

(We will file a complaint for against her in the (Senate) Ethics committee for disorderly behavior. That, only senators can decide on the complaint. Whether they want to suspend or remove her from her post as senator, only they have the power to decide.)

"Pero ang act of contempt against the House of Representatives, kami lang ang pwede magdesisyon iyon. Ang contempt, para maintindihan niyo, preservatory power iyan. Power of preservation yan. Self-defense power yan para may respeto ang mga tao para sa proseso ng isang entity."

(But the act of contempt against the House of Representatives, only we can decide on that. Contempt, just so you understand, is a preservatory power. Power of preservation. It's a power of self-defense so that people will respect the proceedings of an entity.)

Probable arrest

Alvarez believes the House's actions against De Lima will not cause a rift between the upper and lower chambers of Congress. He said they aren't doing this against the Senate or against de Lima as a senator.

Read: 'Observe process:' Senators oppose congressman's call for De Lima resignation

Rather, Alvarez explained, this is against De Lima's alleged personal involvement in the drug trade and as an alleged coddler and protector of drug lords.

Senate President Koko Pimentel said the Senate has yet to study whether the House could cite De Lima in contempt.

"Principle sa ating batas (it's a legal principle), no one is above the law...But then, if the Constitution grants an immunity or grants a benefit to a member of Congress or to someone else, we have to also respect whatever the Constitution grants," Pimentel said.

The Constitution states that while the Senate is in session, senators are immune from arrest if the crime they committed is not punishable by more than six years.

Pimentel did not directly say if De Lima could use inter-parliamentary courtesy, or the tradition of both Congress chambers to avoid interfering with each other's work, as a defense against arrest.

"It is not expressly provided for in any law as far as I know. So it is a matter of practice or strategy. If you want smoother relations, or working relationship with your fellow Congressional chamber, then you better observe some courtesy," Pimentel said.

Sexual harassment?

Alvarez also apologized for the behavior of some congressmen during the House probe last Thursday.

Many critics, including senators and Vice President Leni Robredo, slammed the House inquiry for focusing on the personal, romantic, and sexual relationship of De Lima and Dayan.

Lawmakers, including Alvarez, had thought of showing De Lima and Dayan's alleged sex tape at the House hearing.

But Alvarez said questions into the sincerity of De Lima and Dayan's love affair were relevant to the investigation. 

He said the answers may establish why Dayan followed de Lima when she asked him to hide, or why De Lima asked Dayan to pick up money from alleged drug Lord Kerwin Espinosa.

The House Speaker said the questions were also meant to show the public who De Lima really is.

"Here is a woman, pretending to be clean. Pretending to be a crime-buster, a graft-buster, a self-proclaimed righteous individual. Kelangan natin ipakita sa taong-bayan kung anong klaseng tao ito... Iyon po ang ginawa ng congressmen (We need to show the people what kind of person she is. That's what the congressmen did)," Alvarez said.

He believes De Lima may have committed sexual harassment when she had sexual relations with her subordinates.

Alvarez said he thinks these subordinates may have been harassed when they had sexual relations with De Lima because they were compelled follow what their boss wanted.

CNN Philippines' correspondent Joyce Ilas and digital producer Karmela Tordecilla contributed to this report.