THE SENATE Committee on Ethics and Privileges is expected to decide this week if it will give due course or not to an ethics complaint filed against Sen. Leila de Lima.
Senate Majority Leader Vincente Sotto 3rd said the committee would hold an organizational hearing Tuesday and distribute the copies of the complaint to its members.
Sotto, chairman of the ethics committee, admitted he had yet read to the complaint thoroughly.
“We only constituted the committee because there is a complaint. If you remember the committee was not constituted during the previous Congress,” Sotto said.
The Senate majority leader was referring to the complaint-affidavit filed by lawyer Abelardo de Jesus against de Lima in relation to her supposed involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Sotto said that as chairman of the committee, his first move would be to conduct a background check on the complainant.
As for the content of the complaint, Sotto said the complainant raised at least 12 points, some of them similar to the allegations made recently by President Rodrigo Duterte against the neophyte senator, including her supposed affair with her driver-bodyguard.
The committee may junk the complaint if it finds that there is no basis for the panel look into it, since the allegations made against de Lima happened when she was secretary of Justice under the previous Aquino administration.
The senator noted that it would be difficult for the committee to place a senator under investigation if the allegations were based on actions committed when he or she was not yet a member of the chamber.
If members of the committee agree to proceed with the investigation, Sotto said he would ask the complainant to face the panel first.
De Lima will also be given a copy of the complaint to allow her to answer the allegations raised by de Jesus.
Asked what sanctions a senator might face, Sotto said the Senate, by a vote of two-thirds of all its members, could reprimand, suspend or even expel a senator.
Ethics complaints against senators are not common. The last time the ethics committee conducted an investigation against one of its members was in 2001, when the late senator Renato Cayetano was the subject of an ethics probe.
Cayetano, father of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano, was accused of using his office to acquire shares in gaming firm Best World Resources, whose price was said to have been manipulated by stock market players in 1999.
Sotto said the Cayetano case was not finished because of lack of time.
The Senate meanwhile is unlikely to impose the 90-day preventive suspension issued by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court against Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, because the order may no longer be applicable.
Since Ejercito is no longer mayor of San Juan, there is no way for him to influence the investigation, Sotto argued.
Ejercito is facing graft charges for the alleged misuse of the calamity fund of San Juan to buy firearms for policemen in 2008. The senator has denied any wrongdoing.
For his part, Ejercito said he was studying his options including the filing of a motion for reconsideration before the Sandiganbayan, upon the advise of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd.