Senate panel junks ethics complaints vs. De Lima

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 20) — The Senate ethics committee on Tuesday junked three complaints against detained Senator Leila De Lima.

These cases were filed separately by lawyer Abelardo De Jesus, leaders of the House of Representatives, and former solon and now Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque - in relation to De Lima's alleged drug links. The first two were lodged in 2016, the third in February 2017.

The Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges, chaired by Senator Tito Sotto on Tuesday dismissed all complaints without prejudice, meaning the cases could still be refiled.

"As cited by Senator Lacson, there was no Senate rule violated," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said as he moved to dismiss the complaints.

No senator objected to the motion, which was approved by Sotto.

De Jesus filed a complaint against De Lima in September 2016 after President Rodrigo Duterte named her as the highest government official involved in the illegal drug trade. De Lima supposedly abetted the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison while she was Justice Secretary from 2010 to 2015.

House Justice Committee chair Reynaldo Umali filed another case in December 2016. Aside from Umali, the complaint accusing De Lima of misconduct was signed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and House Majority Leader Rudy Farinas.

The lawmakers decried De Lima's failure to attend the Lower House hearings on the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary.

Umali said De Lima was disrespectful of the committee, which she described as a "kangaroo court."

De Lima is also facing a disobedience to summons case for advising her former driver-bodyguard - Ronnie Dayan - to also skip House hearings despite being summoned by the House committee. The case stemmed from the complaint Umali and other lawmakers filed at the Justice Department.

De Lima earlier admitted to "advising" Dayan to hide.

Roque filed another complaint in February 2017 over De Lima's alleged conspiracy with solon Ron Salo to conceal her role in the Bilibid drug trade.

De Lima has been detained without bail at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since February 2017 over drug charges.

A staunch critic of the Duterte administration, De Lima has repeatedly denied involvement in the illegal drug trade.  She claims to be a victim of political persecution.

CNN Philippines' Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.