MANILA - Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday vented her anger at Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio for supposedly alluding to her as a "drug trafficker" during Senate deliberations on the revival of death penalty.
In his push for restoring capital punishment, Topacio argued that some drug offenders are already "beyond rehabilitation," including drug traders who continue their illegal activities even from behind bars.
He said this is why "the VACC, the [National Bureau of Investigation] and other agencies have filed drug trafficking cases against Senator De Lima and other persons."
De Lima, in an earlier House inquiry, was tagged by several high-profile inmates as a drug protector who allegedly received millions of pesos in drug payoffs to fund her campaign.
A visibly irked De Lima confronted Topacio, saying the lawyer "while in not very express terms, just called me a drug trafficker."
"I want him to take that back," she demanded.
Topacio replied, "I did no such thing. In fact, the transcript of the records will bear me out when I say that whether those charges may be proven or not, we do not know. These are allegations, your honor."
De Lima, however, was not assuaged and told the lawyer: "Why single out only Senator Leila de Lima? I'm not a drug trafficker."
"Bakit hindi mo pangalanan ang mga tunay na drug trafficker? Ako lang ang kinakasuhan niyo," she added in a raised voice.
The incident prompted Senator Richard Gordon, chairperson of the Senate justice committee leading the deliberations, to momentarily suspend the proceedings.
Watch a live streaming of the hearing here