THE Senate committee on ethics and privileges has deferred action on a complaint filed against Senator Leila de Lima by a taxpayer who wanted her expelled from the chamber.
Senator Vicente Sotto 3rd, chairman of the committee, said members of the panel were furnished copies of the complaint on Tuesday.
“We have decided to keep it confidential because it might be premature publicity. So therefore, in fairness to everyone, to all concerned, we’d rather keep it confidential,” Sotto said in an interview after the organizational meeting of the committee.
Sotto added that the panel agreed to call for a general counsel to assist them in studying the complaint.
Sotto refused to disclose details of the complaint but in an interview last week, the senator hinted that some of the issues raised by the complainant were based on the allegations of President Rodrigo Duterte, particularly on her alleged involvement in illegal drug operations and immorality.
Asked if the committee will proceed with the investigation if the allegations were based on the actions of de Lima when she was not a senator, Sotto said they will have to study the issue on jurisdiction.
“That is why it is not easy for us to just take over jurisdiction or to dismiss because of the underlying factors,” he explained.
In his two-page complaint, Abelardo de Jesus said de Lima “miserably” failed to uphold the attributes of a public officer as secretary of the Department of Justice and as a senator, which is tantamount to betrayal of public trust.
De Jesus based his complaint on the August 17, 2016 speech of the President during the 115th Police Service Anniversary in Camp Crame wherein he accused de Lima of “collecting money through her driver’ from the narco-inmates at the National Penitentiary to finance her Senate electoral campaign.
The complainant said there is no reason to doubt the veracity of the allegation, considering that it was made by no less than the President.
“Thus, I plead the Senate Ethics Committee to request the Office of the President for these evidentiary matters to warrant and justify the penalty sought to be imposed against Respondent,” de Jesus said in his complaint.
The complaint charged de Lima with betrayal of public trust, gross misconduct, serious misrepresentation and grievous negligence.
De Jesus said de Lima should be expelled from the Senate.
De Lima dismissed the complaint as part of the harassment tactics against her.
“I have not seen yet any such complaint so I’d rather that I wait first for whatever action, initial or otherwise, that the ethics committee would be taking on that matter,” de Lima said.
“They’re trying to break my spirit but they will never succeed. That will not happen,” she added.
She expressed confidence that members of the ethics panel will study the matter thoroughly.
“I respect them as my colleagues. I know that they know what to do,” de Lima said.