Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10 February 2018


Who are the persons responsible for Sen. Leila de Lima’s incarceration of almost a year? As I mentioned in last week’s column, her reputation was most enviable in her law practice and public service. Somehow, it started deteriorating in mid-July 2016, when she introduced a resolution in the Senate calling for an investigation of the extrajudicial killings (EJKs), followed by a speech on the Senate floor three weeks later calling for an end to them, and then followed, on Aug. 12, by an announcement that the Senate committee on justice and human rights, which she then chaired, would conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on EJKs.

And then the sh*t hit the fan.

President Duterte, who in his first State of the Nation Address had grandiosely announced that he was not vindictive, apparently had an axe to grind against De Lima. She had the temerity, back in 2009 as chair of the Commission on Human Rights, not only to go to Davao City and investigate the so-called Davao Death Squads (DDS), but also to publicly berate him, the then mayor, for his seeming ignorance of it.

The President went on a series of escalating tirades against De Lima, among which was the announcement, three days after she presented surprise witness Edgar Matobato, a confessed hitman of the DDS, that she was at the center of a “drug matrix” that was responsible for the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. As I recall, that accusation was met by widespread disbelief, because De Lima was known to be the one who exposed the problem and conducted the only successful raid on the penitentiary.

Mr. Duterte was joined in his seeming “Destroy De Lima” campaign by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, who had served as lawyer of one of the suspects in a DDS case (who owned the quarry into which victims of EJKs were supposedly thrown). Aguirre presented two former employees of the Department of Justice who, he said, held millions of De Lima’s money in their bank accounts. But the bank transaction slips that Aguirre held turned out to be fake.

The Senate also cooperated by kicking out De Lima as chair of the committee on justice and human rights. She was replaced by Sen. Dick Gordon, who pooh-poohed Matobato’s testimony. Later, Arturo Lascañas, who had been implicated by Matobato but who had denied any wrongdoing, came back to the Senate, and admitted the latter’s claims. But Lascañas’ retraction was disbelieved by the Senate. I interviewed both men, separately, for my TV show “Bawal Ang Pasaway.” All who heard them during the taping of the show were convinced of their credibility. So was I.

The House of Representatives, not to be outdone, allowed Aguirre to run its proceedings, and took great pleasure in accepting the testimonies of convicted felons against De Lima, most of whom were serving life sentences.  Documents from the Bureau of Corrections showed that Aguirre later granted these felons special privileges in prison, with electronic gadgets, cell phones, air-conditioning units, internet use, smart television sets. (By the way, Reader, Senator De Lima, detainee, has NONE of these privileges.)

The House boys also took great pleasure in interviewing Ronnie Dayan, with whom De Lima had had an affair (she was, by the way, free to do so), asking him all sorts of personal, even lewd, questions. I don’t know if the House showed the so-called sex video of De Lima and her boyfriend. I didn’t watch it, but all who did proclaimed it a very poor fake.

And finally, members of the private sector who filed charges and testified against De Lima seem to have been amply rewarded by the Duterte administration: Sandra (“Do you know who I am?”) Cam is now board member of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office; Dante Jimenez now heads the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission;  and Ruel Lasala, whose appointment as deputy director of the National Bureau of Investigation was turned down by then President Benigno Aquino III on De Lima’s recommendation, is now a deputy director at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (he called De Lima the “mother of all drug lords”).

The President seems to have used all the powers at his disposal to cut De Lima down, supported by a complicit legislature. What is left is the judiciary, the conscience of a democracy. What did it do? Abangan.