Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Koko Pimentel are both allies of President Rodrigo Duterte. On the other hand, Senator Leila de Lima is a staunch critic of the president. This puts Cayetano, Pimentel on the side opposite de Lima.
But did you know that before she entered politics, de Lima, as an election lawyer, won several cases for Cayetano and Pimentel?
The senators used to be de Lima’s clients before she was appointed as human rights commissioner, justice secretary, and now neophyte senator.
De Lima lawyered up for Cayetano in a disqualification case filed against him in 2007 over his citizenship when he ran for senator and a disqualification case he filed against senatorial candidate Joselito Pepito “Peter” Cayetano, who was considered a nuisance bet.
De Lima also won Pimentel’s electoral protest filed against Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was declared as the 12th senator.
Duterte has accused de Lima of carrying on an affair with her married driver and bagman for drug money. He also tagged de Lima as the highest ranking government official in his drug matrix that explained the proliferation of illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison.
In his article on Rappler “Leila de Lima: Woman for All Seasons,” former dean of the Ateneo School of Government Tony La Viña wrote about de Lima’s victory for Cayetano.
“She stood as the lawyer of Cayetano when a nuisance candidate with the same name as the senator, a dockworker from Davao, was fielded to undermine his candidacy as a result of his perceived opposition to then President Arroyo, as well as his exposes on the alleged corruption of former first gentleman Mike Arroyo. It was then said at the Comelec that the order to dismiss the case and allow the nuisance candidate to run came from the very top. De Lime nevertheless went on to win the case for Cayetano, and the senator got his Senate seat,” La Viña said.
De Lima says dealings with senators are purely professional
According to Rappler Newsbreak’s article, de Lima has said that she has no ill feelings or tampo at her former clients, despite the fact that they are on Duterte’s side.
“None at all. My engagements with those clients were purely professional. Of course we also became friends in the course of handling their cases, but definitely there is nothing personal when it comes to their position on issues in the Senate, especially now that I am their colleague,” de Lima said.
She added that her past dealings with the two no longer matters given the current circumstances that they are in.
“That is the nature of the Senate. As they say, each senator is a republic unto himself. So the fact that they were former clients is almost irrelevant to how we relate to each other now as colleagues and as friends,” de Lima said.
Cayetano says it’s sometimes awkward dealing with de Lima
Cayetano is more vocal about defending Duterte and making tirades against de Lima. However, he said that there is nothing “personal” about those denouncements against his former lawyer, adding that he has debated with other senators and remained friends with them anyway.
“Halos naman except ‘yung mga bago, nakadebate ko naman lahat, di ba? Nakadebate ko si Chiz [Escudero], we’re still good friends. Nakadebate ko si Senator [Ping] Lacson, we’re very good friends. So we’re all professionals here, walang issue na magkaiba kami ng side. Walang personalan,” Cayetano said.
However, the senator himself cannot deny that it sometimes feels awkward between him and his friend, de Lima.
“At times awkward because we are friends, but we’re professionals eh. Dito naman sa Senado nagkakabanggaan. Of course, because she feels strongly about her issues, I feel strongly about how they’re playing it out,” he said.
Cayetano then launched to criticize how de Lima chose to launch a probe into drug-related killings without meeting the police first.
“It’s not about friendship. It’s about who’s correct. Kung mali si President Duterte, ever since naman sinabi niya sa akin: ‘Alan, salita ka lang kung may makita kang mali.’ But there’s a way to do it. Ni hindi nakipag-meeting ang committee on justice sa mga pulis or sa mga dapat tumutulong eh, ni di nagpa-brief, imbestiga na agad,” he said.
Pimentel said all the senators are his friends; Duterte is his idol
Pimentel, despite being Duterte’s ally, has kept relatively quiet about the constant exchange of words between de Lima and Duterte.
Asked what he felt about dealing with the issues between party-mate Duterte and senator-friend de Lima, Pimentel said: “Actually, lahat ng senator kaibigan ko, ha? So kung may issues involving a senator siyempre concerned din ako. Ganun lang po yun.”
Pimentel said that he also looks up to Duterte as his “idol.”
“Pero ang President kasi di lang sa kaibigan ko, idol ko pa, sinoportahan ko pa, isa kami sa nagkumbinsi sa kanya tumakbo, at kapartido ko po s’ya. Meron pong, ang samahan po naming ideology- and agenda-based. Kailangan ko suportahan ang Presidente na maging matagumpay kasi tagumpay din po yan ng aming partido,” he added.
Pimentel also said that the Senate has no plans to get involved even after Duterte has made several personal attacks against de Lima.
“No no no, di na. Actually, tatapatin ko kayo. Senator de Lima never asked for my help anyway, so okay,” he said.
In the recently concluded third hearing as part of the Senate’s probe into extrajudicial killings linked to the government’s war on drugs on September 15, de Lima declared Cayetano “out of order” for “imputing bad faith, ill motive.” This came after Cayetano said that bringing in a witness like the self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato could be Liberal Party’s Plan B.