Wiretapping case vs Hontiveros a harassment suit — opposition senators

Wiretapping case vs Hontiveros a harassment suit � opposition senators
Composite photo shows Minority Sens. Leila de Lima, Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros.
The STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Two members of the Senate minority this week condemned the indictment of Sen. Risa Hontiveros for a years-old wiretapping complaint that they said was a "harassment suit" filed against her by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre. 

"We stand in solidarity with Sen. Risa Hontiveros as she faces the wire-tapping case resurrected after years in slumber," Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a candidate for vice president, said in a statement written partially in Filipino. "Resurrecting this case is obviously harassment."

"The case should have been dismissed right away. No wire was tapped," he added, emphasizing that the messages of Aguirre urging former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras to expedite legal action against Hontiveros were captured by media photographers during a Senate hearing on the death of Kian delos Santos. 

The senator called Aguirre out on the matter during a privilege speech delivered on the Senate floor. Pangilinan, a lawyer, said this means that Hontiveros is covered by legislative immunity. 

These same arguments were made by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a former justice secretary, when Aguirre first threatened to file a wiretapping complaint against Hontiveros in 2017. 

Hontiveros posted bail on Tuesday, paying P36,000 at the Pasay City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 46, according to a document released by her office. In a statement, she called the case "meaningless and baseless," adding that she was "determined to fight this harassment."

De Lima: Cases filed vs. Hontiveros a 'desperate attempt to malign' her 

Meanwhile, detained Sen. Leila de Lima, who is running for reelection, questioned the timing of Hontiveros' indictment, saying the move "reeks of desperation." 

"Expect Duterte's favorite attack dogs to become more rabid as his reign of terror nears its end," she said in a statement written partially in Filipino. "After [Hontiveros] was charged by Pharmally for bravely investigating their anomalous contracts with the government, this wire-tapping case is revived."

Hontiveros is also seeking reelection in 2022. 

De Lima, also a former justice secretary, maintained that Hontiveros did not violate the law by reading Aguirre's text messages, which were already visible due to the large font on his phone captured in photographs. 

"What should not be forgotten is that this harassment suit against Sen. Risa stemmed from the Senate inquiry into the death of Kian delos Santos, who was murdered by cops in connection with the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ of this administration," the detained senator stressed. 

"So it is somehow par for the course for this administration to do this to a champion of a child-victim of murder as we celebrate the day of Los Niños Inocentes (Feast of the Holy Innocents)." — Bella Perez-Rubio 

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