Sen. De Lima: 1,000 days of incarceration | Inquirer Opinion
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Sen. De Lima: 1,000 days of incarceration

On Nov. 20, four days from now, Sen. Leila de Lima will have spent 1,000 days under incarceration on charges which can be described, in the kindest of terms, as trumped-up. Why should we care? Gut reaction: If it can happen to her, it can happen to us.

But here are less selfish reasons:

That means 1,000 days that the services of Senator De Lima to the Filipino people have been curtailed. She cannot participate in the day-to-day activities of the Senate, to which she was elected by more than 14 million Filipinos. Think of the debates, the discussions, the hearings where her brains and integrity would have contributed valuable inputs.

That means government resources wasted on her detention—the Philippine National Police that have to “guard” her, vet visitors, censor and go through her papers, monitor the CCTV cameras.


That means also the waste of prosecutorial time—prosecutors who should be spending their time on cases not made up of whole cloth. There were five cases against De Lima. Think of the more than 1,000 days that would have been better used in the service of the Filipino people. And I read recently that a 20-man prosecutorial team was being formed at the Department of Justice to ensure that their case is won.

Let’s not forget the waste of the time of judges and their courts, which again could have been better used for the people. As of July 2019, six judges have exited from the De Lima cases.

But more than the waste of resources and time is the possible damage to the psyche of the legislators, police, prosecutors and judges who are participants in this farce, and worse, to the psyche of the entire Filipino people who are witness to what has been called “one of the grossest injustices ever perpetrated in recent memory in full view of the Filipino nation and the entire world.”

Note the use of “possible” to modify “damage to the psyche…” This is because I am aware that some people are so inured to these anomalies that they take them as given, or who have “sold their souls to buy their future.” Let’s go down the list:


Senators—those who voted to oust De Lima as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, and (much) later accepted without question the damaging statements against her by a man who was a proven liar and a drug trader.

The congressmen who allowed the justice secretary to, in effect, preside over their hearings on De Lima, and delighted in bringing out the details of her love affair (her marriage was annulled years ago).


The prosecutor and judges (excluding justices because some are already set in their ways). Does bowing to greater authority teach them to abuse their own authority or strengthen their resolve to never betray their offices again?

The Filipino people: Are we going to say, “it was ever thus,” and continue to be cowed, or are we going to say, “Stop! This goes too far!”?

At this point, if you still think that the drug charges against De Lima are with basis, let me refer you to the conclusion of objective outsiders—the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: De Lima has been arbitrarily detained, and must be freed forthwith. Why? because her “political views and convictions are clearly at the centre of the present case; the authorities have displayed an attitude towards her that can only be characterized as targeted and discriminatory. Indeed, she has been the target of partisan persecution…”

My illustration of this partisan persecution: Starting Aug. 11, 2016, De Lima was the public target of President Duterte. He (not PDEA, not PNP, not CIDG) accused her of not only drug-dealing but also of starting Philippine narcopolitics, caused by her immorality (and he had the videotapes to “prove” it)—interspersed with “putanginas” and other cuss words. The videos were later shown to be photoshopped.

He did this 29 times (media interviews, press conferences, speeches, here and abroad) up to her incarceration six months later—an average of more than one attack a week. He continued vilifying her 10 times more in 2017, six times in 2018, and four times in the first half of 2019. His message has been received.

Our message: Stop this nonsense. Free De Lima. Now.

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TAGS: drugs, Leila de Lima, Philippine National Police

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