Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s text messages advising Ronnie Dayan, her confessed lover and former driver, to hide and not to appear before the House Committee on Justice has put her in further trouble with criminal and administrative charges that could remove her from the Senate, congressmen said yesterday.
The Justice panel chaired by Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali unanimously approved to issue a “show cause” order on De Lima directing her to present a reason on why she should not be cited for contempt for her actions.
The panel also approved a motion to release Dayan from the chamber’s custody after he voluntarily testified at the re-opening of the committee’s inquiry into the alleged drug trafficking operations at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City during De Lima’s term as Justice Secretary.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II, upon the recommendation of congressmen, agreed to put Dayan under the Witness Protection Program to fully secure his person.
ABS party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera made the “show cause” motion as he stressed that De Lima should also be given the chance to show up before the committee and air her side “in the interest of fair play.”
The motion was unanimously adopted with De Vera urging De Lima to show respect with members of a co-equal branch of the government.
Umali described De Lima’s alleged “continuing snub” as an affront to the institution of the House. “There was discourtesy in the fact that telling a witness not to appear here is something that really violates inter-parliamentary courtesy,” said Umali, a former party-mate and fraternity brother of the lady senator.
House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro said the House leadership expects the Senate to conduct a moto propio investigation on De Lima’s action, saying that the Justice panel will try to reach a decision on whether or not she will be cited in contempt.
In his opening remarks at yesterday’s re-opening of the congressional inquiry into the alleged drug trafficking operations at the NBP, Umali chided De Lima for turning down several times invitations for her to attend the hearings and shed light into allegations of her involvement in illegal narcotics deals.
“It shows lack of respect to a co-equal chamber. Her refusal to attend the inquiry is inconsistent with the mandate given to her by the Constitution, Article 11, Section 1 which states that public office is a public trust and that all public officers must at all times be accountable to the people and this is the house of the people,” Umali said.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez described De Lima as a “serial liar” for her continued denial of allegations that she had benefitted from drug money despite admissions made by alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
Alvarez noted that while there were conflicting testimonies of witnesses in the investigation of the Justice committee on the illegal drug trade in the NBP, they have a common thread pointing to involvement of De Lima.
“At bilib nga din ako kay Sen. De Lima. Talagang magaling siyang magsinungaling. I think she is really a serial liar,” Alvarez said in a live interview on TV.
During the Justice committee hearing, Aguirre prodded lawmakers to cite De Lima in contempt for encouraging Dayan not to show up in the legislative proceedings and evade arrest. Alvarez issued a warrant for Dayan’s arrest for failing to show up in the House hearings.
Arrested in San Juan, La Union after a month-long police manhunt, Dayan testified before the Justice committee yesterday that he followed the senator’s advice that was given through his daughter, 23-year-old Hannah Mae Dayan.
The young Dayan was presented in the hearing to confirm her father’s claim. She showed to committee members two De Lima text messages that she saved in her cellular phone.
Hanna Mae confirmed that when her father received the House subpoena last month, she was asked to inquire from her “Tita Lei,” referring to De Lima, on what he must do. She quickly sent the inquiry to De Lima and received a quick response.
“Pakisabi sa kanya magtago na lang muna sya. Kagagawan yan nila Speaker Alvarez at dikta ni Digong. Pagpipiyestahan lang siya at kaming dalawa kapaga nag-appear sya sa hearing na yan,” the text message coming from De Lima’s assigned phone number showed.
Asked by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas on whether there was another text message from De Lima, Dayan’s daughter said that on the same date, October 1, at about 6:15 p.m., the senator responded to her query whether or not her father will be arrested if he fails to show up in the House hearing.
“Hindi ba nagtatago naman sya?” De Lima allegedly responded, also in a text message.
Reacting to the information given by the two witnesses, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said De Lima should be held liable for obstructing proceedings of the House.
While Topacio doubted that De Lima could be held criminally liable, she may, however, be dismissed as a lawyer.
Topacio said the new information and De Lima’s romantic relationship with Dayan, a married man, may be included as grounds for her disbarment. (BEN R. ROSARIO)