Word war erupts between De Lima, Roque over ‘true character’

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 01 2017 04:13 PM

MANILA – A war of words has erupted between Sen. Leila de Lima and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque after the latter made a comment on the detained lawmaker’s “true character.”

The exchange of feisty words between De Lima and Roque started after President Rodrigo Duterte on Nov. 28 slammed the detained senator for “bragging” about the rosary that Pope Francis sent her.

Duterte slams De Lima for ‘bragging’ about rosary from Pope [http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/11/28/17/duterte-slams-de-lima-for-bragging-about-rosary-from-pope]

The President then said in jest he would show Pope Francis De Lima’s alleged sex video with her former driver and boyfriend, Ronnie Dayan, the existence of which both had denied. 

The following day, Roque explained that Duterte’s remarks against the senator was to show that “the Pope does not know the true nature of De Lima’s character.”

De Lima responded to Roque, saying in a dispatch on Thursday, November 30, that the President and his spokesperson’s remarks against her were “grossly unchristian.”

“Mr. Harry Roque, do you really know me? No, you don’t. So, if you can please find it in your heart to cease and desist from babbling about my ‘true character,’” De Lima said.

“I hope that you and your principal refrain from further demonizing me. Stop your pettiness too. Both of you. Grossly unchristian!" she said in a handwritten note sent from her cell at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame. 

Roque showed no sign of backing down, however, releasing another statement Friday saying “we do not need to know the true nature or character of the person to ascertain and establish what she is capable of doing."

“We just have to look at Senator Leila De Lima's drug cases which were based on the testimonies of credible witnesses and documentary evidence,” Roque said.

“The gravity of the accusations hurled against her runs contrary to the incorruptible character she falsely portrayed when she was DOJ Secretary. The Palace statements about the lady senator are information in relation to her position and conduct as a government official and public officer,” said the official. 

Roque also hit back at De Lima, a fierce administration critic, for calling his comments “grossly unchristian.” 

"We find nothing more unchristian than performing an action which counters the demeanor of a public official, which Senator De Lima did when she arrogantly applied selective justice to the political opposition while enjoying her so-called frailties of a woman," said Roque. 

Duterte has criticized De Lima for portraying herself as a “prisoner of conscience”, as the lawmaker continues to languish in detention over drug-related charges. De Lima has denied drug involvement, calling her incarceration political persecution. 

De Lima and Roque have long been at odds, including differences over the handling of the Maguindanao massacre case when the senator was still Justice Secretary and Roque was private prosecutor representing victim's families. 

In February, Roque, a Kabayan Party-list Representative, filed an ethics complaint against De Lima over her alleged drug involvement. 

In September 2016, his own party investigated Roque for his "indecent" questions about De Lima's private life during a House of Representatives hearing into the drug trade at the national penitentiary.