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Is that so? Duterte-De Lima ‘word war’ on rice smuggling revisited


President Duterte during his midnight presser
President Duterte during his midnight presser at the Panacan Depot in Davao City last August 21.


PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte again raked up the past against Sen. Leila de Lima in his Aug. 21 midnight press conference. He said:

De Lima, whenever she faces the microphone and TV cameras, she changes the aura, nag-iiba yung anyo. She becomes combative and she said, ‘Duterte should be punished for… Duterte should be sued for making a threat against the life of a resource person there.’”

(Source: President Duterte’s presser, August 21, 2016, RTVM. Watch 00:23:41 -00:24:10)

He said De Lima, then the justice secretary, made the remark in an ambush interview after he appeared before a Senate inquiry on Feb. 3, 2014 as a witness and told senators he would “gladly kill” suspected big-time rice smuggler David Bangayan, aka David Tan, if he caught him operating in Davao City.

Duterte, the mayor of Davao City at the time, had said:

“… And if this guy would go to Davao and start to unload, pag nakita ko siya (if I see him) in the commission of a crime, I will gladly kill him,”

(Source: PTV report on the Senate inquiry, February 3, 2014, DZMM.  Watch 04:41 – 04:54)

In the Aug. 21 press conference, Duterte also blasted De Lima for supposedly forgetting as justice secretary that he enjoyed certain privileges as Senate witness.

“Nobody, but nobody can question my behavior inside the Senate during a hearing, for it is only the Senate who can question me of what I do, what I did and what I will be doing because that is an affront of the Senate itself as a collegial body. Not an outsider, even if you are the Secretary of Justice…Forgetting the fundamentals of law and out of respect because you are now suggesting to the Senate to punish me. That is one implication. Second implication is she cannot do it because she is not a member of the Senate so she cannot sue me.”

(Source: President Duterte’s presser, August 21, 2016, RTVM. Watch 00:24:16 -00:25:26)


Senator Leila de Lima refuses to back down in the word war between her and President Duterte. (Photo from Sen. de Lima's Facebook)
(Photo from Sen. de Lima’s Facebook page)

Duterte got De Lima’s statement wrong.

A review of print and video news reports of the ambush interview with De Lima shows she never said Duterte should be brought to court. What she said was she found Duterte’s statement disturbing and the rule of law should be followed.

(Source: Ambush interview with De Lima, February 3, 2014, PTV. Watch the entire clip)

She also confirmed this in a text message to VERA Files:

 “That’s correct. What I remember saying is I’m disturbed by the statement. That’s all.”

But Duterte was right about the Senate’s jurisdiction over witnesses at its hearings. According to the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation:

“The Committee, by a vote of a majority of all its members, may punish for contempt any witness before it who disobeys any order of the Committee or refuses to be sworn or to testify or to answer a proper question by the Committee or any of its members, or testifying, testifies falsely or evasively. A contempt of the Committee shall be deemed a contempt of the Senate…”

Who could’ve sued Duterte outside the Senate halls?

Bangayan, the offended party. And his case would’ve been grave threat (See Article 282, Revised Penal Code).

Bangayan never did.