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De Lima: No chairmanship is worth sacrificing my principles

Sen. Leila  de Lima said that it would be hard for the president to take her down during a privilege speech Tuesday, a day after her removal as Senate justice committee head. AP/Bullit Marquez, File
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila de Lima said chairmanship of a committee is not worth sacrificing the principles and causes she had pledged to fight for.
 
She said this in a privilege speech on Tuesday, a day after she was ousted as chairperson of the Senate committee on justice by a vote of 16-4. She was replaced by Sen. Richard Gordon who she praised as having a no-nonsense personality.
 
De Lima questioned if her removal on Monday was orchestrated to hide the truth.
 
 
Last week, the committee held its third hearing on extrajudicial killings, where self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, who claimed to be a member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), alleged President Rodrigo Duterte's involvement in vigilante killings during his time as mayor of Davao City.
 
A heated argument transpired between Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's ally and vice presidential candidate, and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV over timeslot issues in questioning Matobato.
 
 
Cayetano also had exchanges with then committee head De Lima over the former's line of questioning. 
 
Matobato also mentioned names of police officials involved in DDS.
 
 
"Was the action of the Senate yesterday stripping me of my committee going to help uncover the truth, or was it part of the plan to hide the truth? I hope it is not the latter," De Lima said.
 
The senator also hit back at both Duterte and Cayetano.
 
"Sinabi naman po ng pangulo, hindi siya titigil hangga't ako ay kanyang madurog at mapadapa," she said.
 
De Lima said that it would be hard for the president to take her down enumerating all the issues thrown at her.
 
"Mr. President, it would take more than a committee chairmanship, a House inquiry intended to pillory and crucify me, an Ethics Committee complaint based on hearsay, a baseless election protest, everyday tirades from the secretary of Justice and the solicitor general and vicious personal attacks from the president, to take me down."
 
She also answered criticisms from Cayetano and Sen. Panfilo Lacson that she did not vet the witness first.
 
She said that Matobato's statement is stronger,  unlike the drug matrix that the president previously released implicating her in the Bilibid drug trade.
 
De Lima said statements that the country is safe is countered by the recent declaration of a "state of lawlessness," extrajudicial killings and the demolition job against her.
 
The senator said she received reports of inmates being taken by the Special Action Force, deployed in Bilibid by the Duterte administration, who were tortured to fabricate stories against her.
 
De Lima delivered her privilege speech the same day as the House Committee on Justice's hearing on the drug trade inside the Bilibid prison. — Levi A. So
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