By HANNAH L. TORREGOZA • BEN R. ROSARIO
The Senate said yesterday that the House of Representatives cannot dictate them on what to do with Sen. Leila M. de Lima, who faces arrest if she decides to ignore the show cause order issued by congressmen directing her to explain why she should not be held in contempt for advising former lover and aide Ronnie Dayan to stay away from the legislative inquiry on the alleged New Bilibid Prisons drug trade.
Unless they want to do away with the traditional observance of inter-parliamentary courtesy, Senate President Koko Pimentel said he finds it premature for the House to tell the Senate what to do over its member who is now subject of its probe.
The House Committee on Justice has moved to issue a show-cause order against De Lima following the testimony of Dayan and his daughter Hannah Mae telling him to snub the House inquiry on the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs at the State penitentiary in Muntinlupa City.
“How come there is a member of Congress telling the Senate what to do when the House has not even heard the incident, has not even charged her with anything, has not even come up with a final finding or order?” Pimentel told reporters in an interview late Thursday.
“What I know of the rule of law is that no one is above the law. But if the law and the Constitution give us some rights, then we are entitled to those rights. Basta general principle is no one is above the law,” he said.
“We have our own rules in the Senate. Rule of law tayo. But you know for a member of the House to tell the Senate to do something? Ibalik ko sa House – do your thing first before you ask us to do something,” added Pimentel.
Pimentel concedes that inter-parliamentary chamber courtesy between two Houses of Congress is not actually found in the Constitution or in any law. But if House members do not want to observe it, they are free to do so.
“If they want to respect that then well and good. If they don’t want, okay lang din po. Wag lang sila magtampo kung it’s the other way around,” he said.
As far as the Senate is concerned, the Senate leader said they have an Ethics Committee that can hear such complaints against a senator they wish to be confronted over his or her purported illegal acts.
Meanwhile, De Lima faces arrest if she decides to ignore the show cause order.
Senior members of the House Committee on Justice aired this possibility even as House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said he wants De Lima to appear before the panel and personally defend herself from the accusation.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, who are among the top legal minds in the House, defended the Justice committee from criticisms that its members acted irresponsibly for zeroing in on the Dayan-De Lima romance instead of concentrating on the NBP drug trade last Thursday.
“His romantic involvement with Leila de Lima had to be asked in order to test his credibility of being trusted by her for doing such task as receiving money from a person he didn’t know in a public parking lot,” explained Farinas.
Castro said: “I can only speak for myself and not for other congressmen whose interpellations, one way or another, have touched into the romance of Sen. de Lima and Ronnie Dayan. Mine was laying the basis to impeach the credibility of Ronnie Dayan’s would-be declaration.”
ABS party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera, the lawmaker who moved for the issuance of the show cause order during Thursday’s Justice committee hearing, said the House leadership will have no option but to follow the rules on legislative inquiry and ask Alvarez to issue a warrant of arrest should De Lima refuse to appear to explain.
A vice chairman of the House panel who requested anonymity stressed that De Lima is also liable to disciplinary action in the Senate for disorderly behavior.
“By urging Dayan to hide, instead of encouraging him to respect the legislative proceedings, the senator already breached inter-parliamentary courtesy and committed a grave offense as a legislator,” the Justice committee official said.