Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 27 August 2016


This persecution of Leila de Lima is getting out of hand. That it is led by President Duterte makes it even worse. The President, who, in his State of the Nation Address just last month, described himself as “not vindictive,” has proved otherwise. Look at what he has done, and what he has told De Lima: “Tapos ka na” (You are finished) insofar as her public career is concerned.

Arguably as a result of his tirades, there are now videos on YouTube purporting to show sex scenes of her and a partner (one depicting her in coitus with her alleged lover, but a close-up of the face of the woman shows that it is definitely not hers but one made to look like her—and failing miserably). It is truly Bash De Lima time, with his blessing.

What is more, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has joined the boss in the attack. I remember him as the man who dissed Sen. Miriam Santiago in the Senate during the Corona impeachment trial by putting his hands over his ears as she was speaking. Of course he was sent out of the Senate; he was there as a lawyer, after all. The mention of this incident is relevant: It tends to show character.

What I find totally unacceptable is that Aguirre is quoted as saying something to the effect that it is premature for De Lima to mount a defense now because her former driver is not the only link to her alleged drug activities, there are other unnamed ones. What does that mean? That he and others can talk and drag her name through the mud until they find some solid evidence—and only then is she to answer? These are lawyers?

He is also quoted as saying that he already has some five or six sworn statements that will be brought to the planned inquiry of the House of Representatives showing De Lima’s links to drugs. Sworn statements by whom? By lieutenants of drug lords and the like, who are obviously in prison (they’re not about to come out to the Department of Justice from anywhere else)? And who are obviously going to say anything that the administration would want them to say in order to get some concessions? These are lawyers?

But if what they have against De Lima (other than her love life, which is none of their business; besides, look who is calling the kettle black) is anything like what they have brought against former justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, that means they have absolutely nothing. All was done to destroy her name, her reputation, her character. Why? Because, I think, she had the absolute gall sometime ago to investigate the Davao Death Squad under Mr. Duterte, and she has the absolute gall now to investigate the summary executions that are going on to the tune of about 1,000 people in less than two months, plus killings done during police operations (to the tune of more than 700).

What is absolute gall to them is courage to me.

After all, De Lima knew, when she called for the investigation of the extrajudicial killings that have been going on since Mr. Duterte declared his war on drugs, that she was stepping once again on the very tender toes of a very powerful man. She did it anyway. But she was prepared to do battle on issues, not to face the wrath of the powerful man who has thrown everything at her, mostly attacks on her person (ad hominem). In his defense, he was just following the Lawyer’s Rule: “When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. When both are against you, call the other lawyer names….”

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, in her opening statement at the Senate inquiry, hit the nail on the head as to what the hearings were all about. She said she would defend and help the police with everything that she had, but she would also defend the human rights of every Filipino, especially their right to life, with everything she had. She said it more elegantly, of course.

And that is exactly what De Lima is doing, despite the efforts of her critics to make her seem antipolice and prodrugs.

But with all the muck thrown her way, let me remind the Reader what De Lima is all about, and why she won a Senate seat. (I still have to go to the Commission on Elections and look at her campaign finances—which Du30 thinks are riddled with drug money. It should be a relatively simple thing to validate.)

Remember, Reader, that De Lima was appointed justice secretary not because she was a classmate, or a friend, or a shooting buddy of President Benigno Aquino III, but because her performance as chair of the Commission on Human Rights impressed him (just as, for similar reasons, he appointed Conchita Carpio Morales as Ombudsman).

Remember her trial by fire after the August 2010 hostage crisis as chair of the investigating committee. She didn’t care who was hurt, she called the shots as she saw fit.

Remember the Ortega assassination in Palawan. Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, Mayor Mario Reyes, used to be her clients, but she did not let that affect her decision to indict them.

Finally, look at her record: bar topnotcher, law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz, private practice with Francis Jardeleza and later with Raul Roco as an election lawyer (she was also the lawyer of Koko Pimentel in his fight against Migz Zubiri, which he eventually won—a four-year battle out of which she probably didn’t make any money). And finally, chair of the Commission on Human Rights, and justice secretary. One of the Three Furies. Fearless. Not a whiff of scandal in her professional life, not a single accusation of corruption.

Her record speaks for itself. And it will survive all vindictive efforts to poison it.