Commentary PHL Vote 2022

What crime did Leila de Lima commit?


We continually ask that question in earnest, because even her detractors cannot answer it objectively.

I write this on the 5th anniversary of fearless Senator Leila de Lima’s wrongful detention on orders of Rodrigo Duterte. Five years after she was detained on February 24, 2017, this is the grind her cases have taken: five judges have withdrawn, two witnesses have died at the national penitentiary, and the senator has been acquitted in one of the three charges.

Why have all the presidential and senatorial candidates, except for those in Vice President Leni Robredo’s slate, been quiet about her fate although her detention

was clearly dictated by executive vengeance? Let us say it straight: Leila de Lima was jailed for exposing Duterte’s mass murder sprees in Davao city.

The answer lies in the money, that evil that is always the end-all of political transactions. Those congressmen who launched misogynistic sham hearings against her in the House of Representatives could not have defended her. They would have lost their pork barrel if they did so.

Duterte’s senator allies who stripped her of the chairmanship of the Justice Committee could not have acted otherwise or the gossipy Duterte could have publicly shamed them. Manny Pacquiao, who announced the De Lima ouster, was raised to the level of PDP Laban president. But look where he is now: the basket case presidential candidate who will surely lose in the 2022 elections and some of his hard-earned boxing prosperity.

Leila de Lima was silenced and locked up because of their ambition.

Save for one, all the presidential candidates have had nothing to say about the senator’s continued incarceration. Contradicting the troll-generated vilification of De Lima the past six years would be a mistake: if they express sympathy for her, they fear the backlash from trolls in the polls.

Trolls may have crucified her but until today, the prosecution has not proven the existence of a money trail to her drug links that Duterte concocted just to exact revenge on her. An intellectual friend who is DDS only managed the ad hominem that she is an immoral person. Duterte has confessed to killing and doing acts of sexual harassment against a hapless household help, but he is not immoral? That is the warp thinking that has shrunk the brains of many from troll fallacies.

On the occasion of her fifth anniversary behind bars, Human Rights Watch has released a statement challenging candidates to commit to her release.

“Senator de Lima’s long-term wrongful detention exemplifies the lawlessness and cruelty of the Duterte administration,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW. “She has been arbitrarily detained, candidates should pledge to drop all charges against her.”

What logic explains that in this age of teleconferencing, De Lima is not allowed to participate even in the online senate deliberations? She is a duly-elected senator who has not been convicted.

The answer: fear of Duterte.

The outgoing Duterte will not be in power soon. He may even face reckoning if convicted by the International Criminal Court and committed to Scheveningen Prison in The Hague. The wronged De Lima will have the last word: “Maybe I will die in this prison. But that is how life is. There are times we can experience this. Justice will prevail someday.”

To all the trolls and DDS reading this, I ask: what crime did Leila de Lima commit? Show the evidence. Prove the credibility of the witnesses.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.