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The inhumane treatment of Sen. Leila de Lima

Senators Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan recently sent a strongly worded letter to PNP Chief Archie Gamboa questioning the PNP’s inhumane treatment—basically an incommunicado detention or solitary confinement—of Sen. Leila de Lima.

Apparently, since April 25, more than a month ago, no one, except her police custodians, has seen the good senator.

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My questions: Do we have only three principled senators? Why haven’t the rest of her Senate colleagues in the 24-member chamber raised the same concerns? I’d like especially to hear the answers of Grace Poe, Pia Cayetano, Cynthia Villar, Nancy Binay.

What do these women think of this kind of treatment of a human being, much more a senator who was duly elected and should be, except for the vicious interventions of a sitting President and his minions, fulfilling her obligations as senator of the republic?

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But you are right, Reader.

Why should I hold these women senators to a higher standard than their male counterparts? Particularly like Sherwin Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva, who are first-termers, Panfilo Lacson, who has heretofore shown a bold streak of independence, Koko Pimentel, who was born of highly principled parents, and Ralph Recto who, having taken Vilma Santos to wife, should have absorbed something from her, if not from his illustrious grandfather, Sen. Claro Recto?

I voted for Leila de Lima in 2016, together with 14,144, 069 other Filipino voters. She obtained 31.55 percent of the votes cast (the highest-ranking senatorial candidate, Franklin Drilon, got 41.52 percent). Ralph Recto got 31.79 percent, and Sherwin Gatchalian got 33.58 percent.

In 2019, Nancy Binay obtained 30.67 percent, Bong Revilla got 30.91 percent, and Koko Pimentel got 31.01 percent (their highest-ranking, Cynthia Villar, got 53.46 percent).

I give these figures only to show that playing a numbers game, De Lima has at least as much right as these others to be seated in the Senate.

And her performance in the Senate, before it was cut short, and even after her incarceration, has been superb. Principled. Fearless. Brilliant. Evidence-based.

Unfortunately for us, dear Reader—not just we who voted for her, but the Filipino people as a whole—her colleagues in the Senate have not only let us down by failing to stand up for her—a sin of omission—but have also let us down by preventing her from participating in their Senate activities—a sin of commission.

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How? In this time of COVID-19, and Zoom and online meetings, the Senate did not permit her to participate in their online deliberations. Oh, there were excuses, you understand: She was under the jurisdiction of the courts and of the PNP, so it was out of their (the Senate’s) hands.

Good excuse, you think? You think wrong. Because the Supreme Court rulings, as applied to her case, are quite clear: As long as she does not leave the detention center, there is nothing to prevent her from doing her job as a duly elected senator. All she needs is a computer and she can join their deliberations. But they ignored this.

So much for the Senate. I hope, Reader, come elections, you remember what they did or did not do to Leila de Lima.

Now for the police. They too, had all the right-sounding excuses. “Visits are temporarily restricted under ECQ/MECQ as part of biosafety measures to prevent spread of COVID-19 inside PNP camps and police stations,” said the PNP spokesperson. Sounds absolutely on the up-and-up, right?

Wrong again. Firstly, how can COVID-19 spread where there is zero congestion? She is completely alone, not in the crowded jail cell. Secondly, why are her telephone calls restricted? How can telephone calls spread COVID-19, pray tell?

Reader, since April 25, her executive assistant was allowed only four phone conversations with De Lima. Then on May 11, this activity was restricted by an alleged policy that before phone calls are made, a request must be approved by the PNP chief. How does this help prevent COVID-19?

A sitting senator’s reasonable requests have all been turned down, and her pleas for reconsideration fall on deaf ears. It must be great to be part of the police nowadays, so strict on the rules as far as others are concerned, and yet so lenient, insofar as they themselves are concerned. Just ask Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas.

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TAGS: De Lima, Detention, Drilon, opposition senators, Pangilinan, PNP Custodial Center, Seante, Zoom session
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