Sen. Leila de Lima should be released after three witnesses retracted testimonies
Sen. Leila de Lima is one of the victims of the state, led by President Duterte. Imprisonment—a detestable tool of tyranny—punishes defenders of peoples’ rights, seeking to limit their active protest and pursuit of reforms, as well as their vision and hopes for the people and society.
Attempting to humiliate Senator De Lima, members of Congress went as far as wanting to play a “sex video” at their inquiry into the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison. It was not only irrelevant but a vulgar and tawdry means to demoralize and to shame the senator. It had nothing to do with the case. Any substantial evidence related to an alleged drug-trade link of Senator De Lima could be established, but playing a “sex video” cheapens the very office that is theoretically a location of honorable men.
Two witnesses recanted their testimonies against Senator De Lima. Kerwin Espinosa retracted allegations linking her to the illegal drug trade. He manifested that he testified out of fear, pressure, coercion, intimidation, and threat to his life. Another witness, Rafael Ragos, a former officer in charge for the Bureau of Corrections, stated in his recantation that he was also “coerced” into testifying against De Lima, by then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
But recently, a third witness has recanted his testimony. Ronnie Dayan admitted that his testimony in Congress in 2016 was also done out of coercion. He said that there was no delivery of P10 million worth of drug money to him or De Lima.
Senator De Lima has suffered greatly. The attacks against her have been cruel and vicious. Her freedom was curtailed, her reputation assailed, her rights violated and her cause for human rights, justice, truth, and peace disrupted.
Still, while in prison, she remained productive, strong, and whole. She never let the unjust and tyrannical system consume the best in her. She fights, and she fights with pride and dignity. She has soared, especially when compared to the many political trapos who are not even ashamed of their corruption and abuses. Senator De Lima has authored and filed resolutions on key issues such as poverty, sovereignty, human rights, violence, social justice, corruption, rural-urban migration, gender equality, social security, and food security.
Sen. Leila de Lima deserves to be freed expediently. We need a lawmaker like her who would not compromise principles and, even amidst persecution, carries on the tasks that favor the interests of human rights and the welfare of the people.
The President and his collaborators must be made accountable for victimizing many under the sham war on drugs, especially for their human rights violations and persecution of human rights defenders like Senator De Lima.
Freeing Leila de Lima is the best thing this government can do, both for her and for the causes for which she advocates.
Norma P. Dollaga, Kapatirang Simbahan Para Sa Bayan, [email protected]
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