THE Senate ethics committee started discussing the complaint filed against Sen. Leila de Lima but suspended their first session after debating which should take precedence, the question of jurisdiction or form and substance.
Committee chairman Sen. Vicente Sotto III detailed the complaint filed by lawyer Abelardo de Jesus in August, which accuses De Lima of alleged links to the drug trade, specifically of lying when she said she “is of good moral character” in her certificate of candidacy, violating Section 1 of Article 11 of the 1987 Constitution on the accountability of public servants, and other acts “tantamount to betrayal of the public trust, gross misconduct, (and) serious negligence in (the) performance of her duties as a public officer.”
Sotto raised the question of jurisdiction, referring to the rules, which requires that any complaint against De Lima or any other incumbent senator must be related to acts committed after she took her oath as senator.
He also noted that the rules require a complaint to “include a direct statement of the facts that comprise the violation of law” but that the one filed by De Jesus is based not on his personal knowledge but on President Duterte’s claim that De Lima allegedly received money from convicted drug lords through her former driver.
Despite his misgivings, Sotto said it was important to tackle the complaint “to be fair to both sides” and not be seen as an “old boys’ club” rallying around its members.
Sotto and committee member Sen. Panfilo Lacson also maintained that the committee rules are strict about resolving the question of a complaint’s form and substance before ruling on jurisdiction.
But Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon and Sen. Risa Hontiveros dissented.
It was eventually Lacson who moved to suspend proceedings after disclosing that he had not received a copy of the complaint. Drilon said he, too, had yet to read the complaint.
The panel will meet again Monday or Tuesday next week to resolve the question.