MANILA -- Justice Secretary Leila de Lima failed to get the nod of the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday after several issues were raised against her, including the Cabinet official's alleged illicit affairs.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada clarified during the CA hearing that he does not intend to block the confirmation of De Lima as Justice secretary, whose office is overseeing the filing of plunder cases against him and his two colleagues in connection with the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
In the hearing, Estrada grilled De Lima as he accused her of receiving an additional P1 million allowance from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) when she was still head of the Commission on Human Rights during the administration of then President Gloria Arroyo.
The senator said that considering the fact that the position of De Lima is a critical one, it is expected that she will be scrutinized by the CA and morality issues as well as her integrity will be a major issue.
De Lima during the hearing said it is a known fact that her position and her stand against several issues are controversial.
"I cannot and will not deny it," De Lima said during the hearing.
De Lima also denied the allegations that she is receiving an additional P1 million allowance from the state gaming firm as claimed by Estrada.
She said that she received an additional P500,000 as confidential intelligence fund but everything is on the record.
Sandra Cam, president of the Whistleblower Association of the Philippines, meanwhile, accused De Lima of being unfit for the position.
She exposed De Lima's alleged illicit affairs before the CA, as she maintained the Justice chief's alleged "unfitness" to the post.
She even challenged De Lima to confront the issue truthfully and even encouraged the Justice Secretary to file a libel case against her.
Cam said she has in her possession proof as well as videos to prove the alleged illicit affair of De Lima.
"I am encouraging Secretary De Lima to file a libel case against me so I will have a chance to bring the truth to court," Cam said.
However, De Lima said, "It is too demeaning for me to publicly address those allegations."
She said that she is doing her job and this move against her is just part of her challenges for doing what is required of her as Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
De Lima said it is not in her character to waste her time for the satisfaction of those who does not like her.
But Estrada said the issue of illicit affair against De Lima is a valid one.
"She is a lawyer, although her marriage was already annulled, but if ever it is true that she is being romantically linked to a married man, well ibang istorya iyon. She can also be disbarred if the allegations are proven to be true," Estrada was quoted as saying.
Estrada said he will not invoke Section 20 against De Lima.
"I can abstain but I will not invoke Section 20 because I might be misinterpreted as getting even with her. No, it is not my character," Estrada said.
Estrada also asked De Lima is she is aware of her former client, former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes fleeing from authorities.
Reyes was accused of killing a Palawan-based radio journalist.
De Lima admitted talking to Reyes before he went into hiding but the only thing he asked then was to be given a "fair trial."
"I said I cannot guarantee him anything. I did not give him any preference or any favor," De Lima answered Estrada.
Estrada told De Lima that he will face all the plunder charges squarely. "I will face the charges even if these are all fabricated."
De Lima immediately answered, "With all due respect, Sir. I disagree that they're fabricated."
De Lima will return to the CA on June 11 for the resumption of the confirmation hearing.
Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje confirmation snag anew and the chance of receiving the nod of the powerful bicameral appointments body remain uncertain.
CA committee on environment and natural resources chairperson Senator Loren Legarda has decided to reset for Tuesday, June 11, the continuation of the confirmation hearing of Paje following a request made by Senator Sergio Osmena III to be given more time in asking questions on the Cabinet official.
Osmena was not contented with the answers given to him by Paje on many issues.
"I am almost certain he will be able to answer all those questions and hopefully he will be confirmed next week. If not, we can schedule another hearing in July," said Legarda.
However, Legarda does not discount the possibility of Paje being deemed bypass for the nth time by the CA "if he still fail to breeze through the proceedings next week due to a number of oppositors." (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)