The president of the Liberal Party believes drug charges filed against Senator Leila de Lima are President Rodrigo Duterte's way to humiliate the senator for investigating the Davao Death Squad when he was still mayor.
LP president Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan noted Duterte himself said he will "destroy" De Lima.
"That’s precisely what the president said when this issue first came out. He said that Secretary De Lima, then chair of Commission of Human Rights, humiliated him, embarrassed him, and that he will do everything to destroy her," he said in an interview with ANC's "Headstart."
De Lima, then CHR chair, tangled with Duterte when her office probed into the alleged killings done by vigilante group Davao Death Squad, which supposedly had links to Duterte.
De Lima and Duterte were elected senator and president, respectively, in the May 2016 polls. De Lima has vowed to be a "fiscalizer" in the Duterte administration and became one of its most vocal critics.
Last week, the Department of Justice filed three criminal cases against De Lima over her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary.
Pangilinan said it is wrong for Duterte to use his position as Chief Executive to settle old grudges.
"All presidents are humans, they make mistakes, they get angry, they get upset; but I think it is a mistake for the President to use his office to get even or settle a score many years ago," he said.
"I think this is wrong and therefore we stand up against this and oppose this," he added.
NOT THE VENGEFUL TYPE
For his part, Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Duterte is not the type to be vengeful.
"I’ve known him for 30 years. He’s not that kind of person. He is a very humble person, a very kind-hearted person. He’s outraged by any kind of abuse. He cannot tolerate a person being hurt or injured, or being subject of a kind of violation of any irregularity," he said.
Panelo said Pangilinan is "entitled to his opinion" and it should be respected as it is "part of democracy."
De Lima is out to challenge the jurisdiction of a local court where drug cases were filed against her. Pangilinan said the LP is right behind her.
"This is a serious cause for concern for us considering we feel the filing of the charges before the Regional Trial Court is contrary to law because it’s not the RTC that has jurisdiction over the cases of Senator De Lima, but the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan," he said.
Pangilinan said the DOJ filed the charges at the local court because they have control over the prosecutors there, unlike in the Sandiganbayan or Ombudsman.
"This is precisely why we believe that this is being tailor fit to be filed and justified before Regional Trial Court because they have full access to and full influence over the prosecutors there, meaning the Department of Justice, and it’s not the case with the Ombudsman," he said.