It became national entertainment—the cheap kind—where men and women did not find anything reprehensible about mocking a woman.
They might not have even thought they were making fun of her, with every howl of laughter they let loose every time something sordid or salacious about the alleged affair of Sen. Leila de Lima was mentioned in the congressional inquiry on supposed drug trafficking at the national penitentiary.
Things unraveled early on in the investigation conducted by the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, which began in September.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez III said the so-called sex video of the senator and her former driver and bodyguard, Ronnie Dayan, could be shown at the hearing, purportedly to establish their relationship.
The sex video, which turned out to be a dud, was brandished by no less than President Duterte himself, with a follow-through by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
Their point was that De Lima and Dayan were so close that it was possible he was her bagman at the national penitentiary.
The House didn’t show the video at the hearing after it was deluged with protests, led by some lawmakers themselves.
But somehow, at one hearing, De Lima’s former bodyguard, Joenel Sanchez of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), managed to describe in detail a supposed sex video of the couple that he saw on the phone of De Lima’s other driver.
When Sanchez said he had seen De Lima and Dayan feeding each other “saging na saba,” the room roared with laughter.
The saba became more fodder for jokes for the public.
The congressional hearings, including the one with Dayan, ran for a total of five days and almost 52 hours.
When he terminated the proceedings last October, House justice committee chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali described the investigation he led as one of the “shining moments” of Congress.
He himself might not have been prepared for what happened at the Nov. 24 hearing, where his colleagues threw sexually charged questions at Dayan, which tickled the people inside the room but angered the citizens watching on national television.
Some congressmen, to their credit, tried to put sense into the otherwise raucous hearing and to steer the questions back to the alleged drug trade at the national penitentiary.
Obviously, not all of them found the suggestive questions funny, but none, unfortunately, put it on record during the hearing.
At the end of that surreal day, a beaming PNP Director General Ronald Bato had his arm around a smiling Dayan. The PNP has taken him under its custody and brought him straight back to Pangasinan, his hometown.
When Dayan was presented to the media at the House of Representatives after his arrest on Nov. 22, a journalist asked him what his message was for the embattled De Lima.
The question triggered collective teasing from the people inside the room at the Batasan: “Yihiii!”
Dayan smiled and covered his face. He appeared bashful.
Alvarez smiled and shook his head. Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Umali grinned.
The House security personnel who stood behind them and Dayan snickered.
Some men in the room said “I love you” and “I miss you.”
Dayan leaned into the microphone and said: “Magpakatatag siya… labanan niya yung mga binabato sa kanya.”
There was more laughter and jeers.
Days after the infamous hearing, Alvarez had to apologize to the public for the behavior at the House.
At the plenary, Gabriela Women’s partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas asked the House Speaker to strike off the congressional records the portions of the committee hearing that discussed the “intimacies of the relationship” between De Lima and Dayan.
1-Ang Edukasyon Rep. Salvador Belaro apologized to those he said he might have offended, but blamed the media for the alleged biased spin against him.
Belaro was the one who asked Dayan when his relationship with De Lima “climaxed.”
Dayan denied being De Lima’s bagman and knowing any of the convicted felons who named him as the one who badgered them to pay up to fund her senatorial bid last May.
Umali told reporters he found the convicts-turned-witnesses credible. Aguirre also said these witnesses were credible.
The Committee on Justice investigation report banked on the convicted felons’ testimonies, implicating De Lima in the alleged drug trade.
For the committee, Dayan was the missing link in the whole puzzle of drug trafficking at the New Bilibid Prison.
When he finally faced them, the congressmen did not press him for answers about it. Instead, they focused on his involvement in De Lima’s alleged dealings with self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
That Nov. 24 hearing was baffling in terms of objective, and disgraceful in terms of the people who found entertainment at the expense of a woman.