A lot of people argue about what President Duterte’s biggest lie is. Of course, there is a terminology problem here. His subordinates don’t call it a lie, but a tendency toward hyperbole, which is defined as an exaggerated statement or a claim not meant to be taken literally. Okay. What then do you think is his biggest hyperbolic statement, Reader?
My candidate is his statement (during his first State of the Nation Address) that he is not vindictive. A close second, or actually at the same level of outrageousness, is his repeated assertion that he faithfully observes the rule of law. And the best example that this is beyond hyperbole is right before our eyes: Sen. Leila de Lima.
Leila got into “trouble” with Du30 because she had the effrontery to go to Davao City, when she was chair of the Commission on Human Rights, to investigate the Davao Death Squad that was allegedly responsible for about 1,400 extrajudicial killings, and that came to be during Du30’s stint as mayor. It was then that the Du30 “get Leila” campaign must have started, and was fueled by her decision, as a sitting senator, to investigate the extrajudicial killings.
In the first five months of his presidency, Du30 publicly insulted/excoriated the senator on at least 22 occasions (or once a week), pronouncing her guilty of complicity in the trade in illegal drugs in the country, accusing her of immorality, and even saying, “I will have to destroy her in public.”
His vindictiveness was contagious, and contaminated his justice secretary, who appeared in the House and, in violation of the rules on committee hearings, was the one who presented the witnesses against Leila and directed questions at them. These witnesses were all convicts incarcerated in Muntinlupa, most of them with life sentences, guilty of murder, or kidnapping, or robbery, etc.
Let me narrate some of the violations of the “rule of law” that surrounded the present incarceration of Leila (217 days now, or 7 months).
The warrant for her arrest was signed by a judge who, I am told, had no jurisdiction over the case, because based on the information presented by the prosecutors (from the Department of Justice, naturally), the case should have been handled by the Sandiganbayan, and investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman. She got away with it.
Would you believe that Senator De Lima was charged, and arrested, and is in detention now, for the wrong crime? The members of the DOJ panel charged her with illegal drug trading. But that required evidence in the form of the illegal drugs traded, and some knowledge of where she sold it, and who bought it. Not having any of that, they changed it to conspiracy to drug trading, but that is apparently against due process: The charges cannot be changed in midstream. But they got away with it.
Almost all the witnesses are criminals convicted by final judgment of crimes involving moral turpitude, and thus are not qualified to testify as state witnesses. But they got away with it.
And continue to get away with it, until the Supreme Court rules on Leila’s complaints (she went to the high court in April, but no decision yet). What is taking the high court so long? Is there pressure from Malacañang? More vindictiveness?
Not content with putting her in detention, with the incredulous charges and witnesses, the vindictiveness and rule of law violations continue during her incarceration. This column has described that she is not allowed the use of a cell phone, or a computer, or a radio, or a TV set, much less an air-conditioner. Remember, Reader, she is incarcerated because the charges against her are not bailable.
Aside from that, many visitors, especially foreigners, have not been allowed to see her. Parliamentarians, human rights advocates, etc. No stated reason.
The latest sign of vindictiveness: All the materials that go to her are subject to “reasonable censorship,” including Senate and even confidential lawyer-client materials.
What has she done to deserve this? Remember, Reader, if it can be done to her, it can be done to any of us.
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