Soliman, De Lima to face rough sailing at CA

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014


JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman will be facing rough sailing in the Senate after a number of senators confirmed they will be grilling them in this week's hearing of the powerful bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA).

Senator Jinggoy Estrada said De Lima will have to answer point by point the allegations hurled against her including the alleged illicit relationship, which was revealed by whistleblower Sandra Cam.

In a report, Cam alleged that De Lima's controversial private life is one factor that needs some explanation.

Cam alleged that De Lima's personal life "is replete with controversies that overthrow her integrity as public servant."

"Her illicit affair has been circulating in the media for quite some time. Furthermore, reports have it that the Secretary is engaged in another illicit affair (with a person who drives her around)," Cam was quoted as saying.

At the same time, De Lima will need to answer allegations of alleged gross partiality and partisanship in filing plunder complaints against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.

Cam also said De Lima's leadership "was marred by her selective application of justice, unexplainable refusal to prosecute, impunity to the guilty, and undisclosed anomalies that seriously casts doubts on the integrity of the justice department under her tutelage."

In a press conference, Estrada said he will not oppose De Lima but will seriously listen to all the evidence that will be presented against her.

"She is a lawyer, although her marriage was already annulled, but if ever it is true that she's being romantically linked to a married man, well ibang istorya iyon. De Lima as a lawyer can also be disbarred," Estrada said.

Cam submitted on Tuesday an affidavit addressed to the CA, which decides on the appointments of several bypassed Cabinet officials, including De Lima, on June 4.

The other Cabinet members of President Benigno Aquino III repeatedly bypassed by the CA are Soliman, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, and Commission on Audit (COA) Commissioner Heidi Mendoza.

Estrada said he will definitely oppose the confirmation of Mendoza but refused to elaborate the reasons.

In an affidavit of Cam, it also stated that De Lima has not only failed to fulfill all legal requirements necessary to be appointed (to her post) but more importantly, she has proven herself to be incompetent and unfit to head the Department of Justice (DOJ).

On De Lima's supposed partiality, Cam noted that while De Lima had "persecuted members of the opposition with unreasonable zeal and grave abuse of power."

Cam said with undue haste, De Lima filed plunder complaints against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla while not a single case was filed against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Processo Alcala and members of the ruling Liberal Party who are similarly implicated in the pork barrel scam.

"Similarly intriguing is De Lima's lack of action against the mayors who were reported to be included and involved in the pork barrel scam. These mayors appear to have been taken out of the list of those to be prosecuted due to their promise to support De Lima in her senatorial bid," Cam said.

The supposed deal between De Lima and unnamed local government officials was also cited in the narration of events of pork barrel scam brains Janet Napoles, which former Senator and now Rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson surrendered to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

"I later found out that no mayors was included in the charge sheet by the DOJ because Attorney (Levito) Baligod (the counsel of whistleblowers in the pork scam) interviewed each mayor involved and promised not to include them in the charge sheet 'in exchange for support of each mayor to the future candidacy of SoJ (Secretary of Justice) in the Senate,'" Napoles said.

Cam also accused De Lima of giving Napoles "undue grant of favors and benefits", citing De Lima's decision to consider Napoles as a state witness in the pork barrel scam cases.

Legal requirements clearly disqualify the most guilty from becoming a state witness yet De Lima would confer such status on Napoles, she said.

"It would seem that De Lima is desperately in need of the assistance of the scam's very mastermind to pin down the rest, instead of building up a case on available information," Cam added.

Cam said De Lima, instead of hitting at the mastermind of the pork barrel scam with hammer and tongs, she unwittingly exposed herself as the lawyer of Napoles to the point of even assisting her in the preparation of her controversial affidavit.

Cam also cited De Lima's decision to dismiss the illegal detention case filed by principal whistleblower Benhur Luy against Napoles as she cited a report that a "multi-million (peso) package for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-DOJ Family changed hands as a result of the dismissal of the case."

"It was only on 6 August 2013 and upon motions of Luy and of the NBI that the DOJ issued a Review Resolution reversing its earlier resolution. It bedevils the mind that without any new evidence filed or presented, a 180-degree turnaround happened," she said.

Cam had the documents to prove her claims.

Cam also listed several other reasons for the CA to reject de Lima's appointment, which include her unjustifiable inaction and gross incompetence in pursuing cases lodged before the DOJ, citing the case involving whistleblower Yadao Makilala who exposed anomalies in the Bureau of Corrections; her incompetence as past chairman of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) when Cam said there were individuals prosecuted or convicted for human rights violations; her failure to afford protection for civil liberties in which Cam pointed out that during de Lima's stint as Justice Secretary "media killings has risen to alarming levels"; her gross incompetence in the administration of justice as Cam said the DOJ is plagued with unresolved criminal cases citing the case of de Lima's former client fugitive brothers Palawan ex-governor Joel Reyes and Mario Reyes who were suspects in the murder of journalist Gerry Ortega.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, for his part, said Section 20 cannot be invoked against the said cabinet secretaries as he explained that the voting cannot be deferred when it comes to the plenary, which he added must be voted upon.

"Isa sa features ng Commission on Appointment ay hindi na pwedeng ipagpaliban kapag nasa plenaryo na. Hindi mo na pwedeng ipagpaliban ang botohan pagdaling sa plenaryo on sine die. Kailangan ay pagbotohan na," Drilon said.

Meanwhile, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said she will invoke Section 20 of the rules of the CA on June 4 against Soliman.

In practice, Section 20 when invoked by any of the CA members can kill the nomination without the need for any explanation.

In an earlier letter by Santiago submitted to Abono party-list Representatives Conrado Estrella III, chairperson of the House committee on labor, employment and social welfare, Santiago expressed her strong opposition to Soliman's possible confirmation.

According to Santiago, Soliman's credibility and loyalty should be one factor that must be clarified.

"Soliman should not retain her public office on the strength of her denunciations of her first boss, (former President Gloria Arroyo)," Santiago said.

Soliman served as the social welfare secretary under the Arroyo administration and was part of the controversial "Hyatt 10" who turned their backs against Arroyo at the height of the "Hello Garci" scandal.

Santiago said she will definitely attend the June 4 hearing despite her chronic fatigue syndrome. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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