Conversation with Sen. Leila, detainee (2)
Q: Is there a chance you’d be set free during the Duterte administration which ends in June 2022?
A: Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to decide on my cases. There is tremendous political pressure regarding my cases. But I’m very confident that a fair assessment of their merits will set me free, that justice and courage will prevail over political harassment and any sense of self-preservation or self-promotion on the part of the judges.
Q: Do you believe you are a victim of President Duterte’s vindictiveness, and why?
A: Mr. Duterte began to vilify me shortly after I initiated a Senate investigation into his drug war killings. He said it himself that I will “rot in jail” and that I should “hang myself.” He repeatedly talked about his grudge against me for investigating his links to the Davao Death Squad when he was mayor. Now, as President, he even admitted to listening in on me with the “help of another country.” I can fairly say that not even Ninoy Aquino got this kind of treatment from his oppressors.
Q: After four years in detention, what progress, if any, has there been in your cases?
A: After 3 years and 3 months of hearings, my defense team last year filed bail petitions for each of the 3 separate charges of conspiracy to commit drug trading.
In January this year, demurrers to evidence to dismiss 2 of the 3 cases being handled by the same court were filed. (Note: On Feb. 17 the court dismissed one of the cases against her.)
The Prosecution has failed to present sufficient and credible evidence to prove my guilt beyond reasonable doubt. My innocence was affirmed further by some of the prosecution witnesses who testified that no intelligence report has ever linked me to the illegal drug trade, that I have never been the subject of any investigation for suspicious transactions, and that I successfully led the biggest raid of the New Bilibid Prison. The third case, which was considerably delayed due to changes in the handling judges, is undergoing bail hearings.
Q: Why are you here in Camp Crame and not in another detention facility?
A: It was the court’s decision to have me detained here, deeming it appropriate to my security needs and high-profile status as a sitting senator.
Q: What’s a typical day in detention? Your hobbies, recreation, books you wrote or are writing.
A: I wake up at 4:30 a.m. and go to bed between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. My day begins with prayers and reflections and ends with reading some books. In the mornings, I wait for incoming documents and I hand over to a staff handwritten instructions and statements on pressing issues. At least 4 periods throughout my day are dedicated to Senate paperwork (drafting bills and resolutions, perusing my daily briefing reports, etc.), sandwiched in between my mealtimes at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 8:30 p.m.
So far, I’ve issued 1,030 Dispatches from
Crame containing my reflections, some of which were compiled into 2 books. Another book featured some writings marking my receipt of the Liberal International’s Prize for Freedom Award. All 3 books were released in 2018 and 2019.
I also do some chores such as sweeping my quarters, feeding my adopted stray cats roaming the facility, and watering my plants. I’ve been a plantita for a while now, way before it became trendy during the pandemic. By 5 p.m., I pray the Holy Rosary, read the Bible, and write in my journal.
Q: What books do you read? Share with us what you have picked up, what inspired you.
A: If my workload is light, I read a novel and take a nap around noon. I generally go for legal thrillers, political, detective, and mystery novels. I’ve read almost all of John Grisham’s novels (the latest, “The Reckoning”) and several of Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Frederick Forsyth, Michael Connelly, David Baldacci, Robert Harris, and Caleb Carr. I like the works of Paulo Coelho, Mario Vargas Llosa, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Haruki Murakami.
I average two to three books a month. I read a set of 3 to 5 books at a time. Currently I’m reading Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land,” Joe Biden’s “Promises to Keep,” and Tana French’s “The Searcher.”
I have finished Bill Browder’s “Red Notice” (gifted by Marites D. Vitug), Yuval Noah Harari’s
“Sapiens,” Steven Levitsky/Daniel Ziblatt’s “How Democracies Die,” Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened,” Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken,” Anthony
Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See,” Tara Westover’s “Educated,” Philip Yancey’s “What Good is God?,” Randy Ribay’s “Patron Saints of Nothing,” Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and Julie Berry’s “The Passion of Dolssa” and “All the Truth That’s in Me.” I also loved George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of 5 books.
I regularly write down favorite lines/quotes from books that strongly resonated with me:
“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” (“A Clash of Kings,” George R.R. Martin)
“Dignity… This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humaneness, to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized… Without dignity, identity is erased.” (“Unbroken,” Laura Hillenbrand)
(To be continued)
Send feedback to [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.