MANILA, Philippines — Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III on Thursday vowed to conduct a fair handling of the ethics complaints against Sen. Leila de Lima after she had expressed hurt over her colleague’s doubts of her integrity and qualms about the impartiality of certain members of the body.
“I will act as impartial as possible as chair,” Sotto, chair of the Senate committee on ethics and privileges, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer when reached for comment.
De Lima had on Wednesday expressed offense at how some of her colleagues doubted her and believed the drug allegations against her. Ethics complaints filed against her before the Senate all stemmed from the drug charges.
She has repeatedly denied the accusations, saying they were meant to taint her name amid her fierce opposition to President Duterte’s war on drugs.
While still giving committee members “the benefit of the doubt” as far as their fairness, De Lima said those who might feel that their impartiality has been compromised should “take the initiative to inhibit [themselves].”
She noted that certain committee members had shown “hostility” towards her at the Senate hearings on extrajudicial killings and in their media statements. She did not name who they were, but Sotto and Committee Vice-Chair Sen. Panfilo Lacson had both said there was evidence to indict her.
Several high-profile convicts, confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, and De Lima’s former driver and lover Ronnie Dayan had told congressional inquiries that the senator had received drug money to raise funds for her senatorial campaign.
Sen. Grace Poe, also a committee member, had meanwhile said in an interview that De Lima should explain why illegal drugs flourished at the New Bilibid Prisons during her time as justice secretary. Sought for comment, both lawmakers begged off.
“As vice chair of the committee on ethics and privileges, I’d rather not react to her comments,” Lacson said in a text message.
“Because I want to maintain my neutrality and impartiality, I will refrain from commenting on matters that would come up before and be passed upon by the committee regarding the ethics case filed against Senator De Lima,” said Poe.
De Lima is facing three ethics complaints at the Senate, all related to the drug allegations against her.
The latest was filed by leaders of the House of Representatives in December over De Lima’s act of discouraging Dayan from participating in the House justice committee’s investigation into the Bilibid drug trade.