No character assassination vs. de Lima, says Malacañang official

MANILA — A Palace official dismissed Thursday Senator Leila de Lima’s allegation that President Rodrigo Duterte maligned her character, saying she has a driver-boyfriend implicated in illegal drugs, the very scourge that the government is purging.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said he considers de Lima’s allegation unfounded, noting that what the President exposed about her had basis.

“This is the President and not just an ordinary person turning to gossip. That means he has an unimpeachable source,” Panelo said on the sidelines of a forum in Metro Manila.

De Lima described as plain and simple character assassination President Duterte’s allegation that she is having an affair with her married driver who, on her behalf, collected campaign money from illegal drug traders.

However, what the President said wasn’t character assassination, clarified Panelo.

“Character assassination is vilifying a person based on wrong information. It’s not true the President delivered a personal attack on her,” Panelo said.

Personal attack is what de Lima hurled against Mr. Duterte while she was human rights chief and he was Davao City mayor, he noted.

She linked him to salvaging even before commencing investigation on this, he said.

“Until now, there’s not a single salvaging case filed against the President,” Panelo added.

Since de Lima is a public official, she must directly address what the President exposed about her, Panelo said.

“She has neither denied nor admitted it,” he said.

Failure to address the matter can spell disaster for de Lima, he warned, saying “Silence means consent.” PNA/